It’s admittedly a rare occasion that my day job at Lackawanna College and my pop culture nerdiness cross paths with each other, so I feel the need to talk about a recent incident.
You see, Lackawanna turns 120 this September and we recently needed an image to use for a celebratory birthday cake. I reached out to a former professor of mine, Mark Ciocca, who graciously sent over a pen and ink drawing of the College that he had done as a personal note of congratulations on my new job last year. I had no intention of using the drawing without his expressed consent.
He obliged and asked that written credit be given wherever it was used – a simple request to fulfill for someone who is sensitive to artists’ issues.
A few days later, I posted an in-progress look at a piece I’m calling “Fusion… Huh?!”, which is pictured above. It is a triple combination mashup featuring the Pokemon Haunter and Ditto completing the Fusion Dance from Dragon Ball Z to form Adventure Time’s Lumpy Space Princess. The Instagram post garnered a few of the usual likes and comments my work receives.
About a day later, I was looking at the users who had commented and liked the post and discovered that one had not only regrammed it but made it their profile picture.
At first, I was humbled someone could like something that I had created so much. But then I was extremely bothered that proper credit for the work had not been offered.
I debated whether or not to comment on the post and finally resolved myself to asking the user to offer due sourcing for the work they apparently had to share. Days later, none has been offered.
I’m still torn on whether to be honored or agitated. As someone who creates pieces like “Fusion… Huh?!” in the hopes that hundreds would like it enough to purchase prints or shirts featuring the design, I’m bothered when it has a more viral reach when another person shares it without proper sourcing.
The struggles for a modern artist include permanent anonymity in a culture that claims ownership over everything it sees or touches. I know that, from now on, I’ll certainly be more careful about placing watermarks on my work.
So my request is simple: If you discover a piece of art online that you adore, do your best to source the person you discovered it from or, in the best case scenario, the original artist.
And if you love it enough to share it, please consider buying a print, bag, shirt, or other product featuring the design. Artists like me are encouraged to create more when their products are purchased. I’d rather know that my work is hanging on someone’s wall or emblazoned on their new favorite shirt than be an anonymous face in the growing crowd of pop artists.