The internet and art

The Romans kept their ancestor-geniuses in boxes. (Okay, they were actually shrines.) This one, from the House of the Vettii in Pompeii, shows two Lares (or guardian angels), flanking the household’s ancestor-genius.
When I went looking for Iv├ín Ramos’ photos, it was very easy to come up with them, because he is practicing an open-source business model. When I went looking for Van Gogh paintings of an orchard on Tuesday, I had no problems, because Wikipaintings is open source.

Open source started off as a software development model, but has become more generalized. It means universal access through free licensing, and universal distribution, including subsequent iterations. For artists, it’s about sharing your process and it means not worrying too much about the low-res images of your work that are spinning around on the internet. (That’s not too difficult, since we sell paintings, not images of paintings.)

We keep our geniuses in different boxes: Wikipaintings, for one, which claimed to have 75,000 paintings on line as of June, 2012.
That’s pretty much the norm in my world of visual arts, where painters are happy to share process and images of their work. But it is not universal.

I would love to show my students how Andrew Wyeth set up his paintings. But the Wyeths are very protective of their intellectual property, so if you want to study them in breadth, you have to hie over to a museum that holds their work.

I would love to show you Jamie Wyeth’s Seven Deadly Sins, which uses seagulls as models. However, the Wyeths are very tight with their intellectual property, and so you’re unlikely to see the series on the internet. Here are some ravens in Maine instead, which aren’t out of copyright and which Wikipaintings displays under fair use principles.

What does this exposure do to the Cult of Genius that has elevated the artist since the 18th century? Hopefully, it destroys it forever, since the idea of the artist locked in his garret and thinking brilliant but ultimately solitary thoughts, is pretty terrible for the actual production of art.

Artists never worked in a vacuum.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Belfast, Maine in August, 2014 or in Rochester at any time. Click 
here for more information on my Maine workshops!

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