You should have been around in 1830!

There is A LOT of fear in the world right now: economics, politics, technology… of course many artists are very unhappy about the Orphan Works legislation.  (Go here if you need a refresher, this post isn’t about the details.)  I’m not happy about it either, don’t get me wrong, but I’d like to give some historical perspective.

So what happened in 1830 that was so terrible?  That caused artists to panic, lose their livlihood and have to figure out how to adapt to an every changing world.  I have one word for you:  Camera.

Before the camera was made available commercially, artists were paid to paint portraits.  No artist, no portraits.  It kept a lot of people employed.  But now (in 1830) people could spend a fraction of the time and money to get photographs of themselves.  Voila!  Overnight there were a lot of “starving artists” around.

You can imagine the upset and outrage in the artistic community.  Not only did they wonder how they would feed their families, but I imagine there was a lot of discussion about how art was dying, never to be revived.

Then there was a shift. Since artists didn’t need to be focused solely on painting portraits that were true to life, they could turn their attention to other subjects and they could experiment.  Modern art was born from the death-toll of the camera.

Without the camera we wouldn’t have abstract art, modern art, impressionism, cubism, you name it.  Well… anything but super-dooper-realistic art.

Let’s now fast forward… imagine how professional photographers felt at the beginning of the digital camera revolution.  Where before people would pay to have pictures taken and they would have to pay the photographer for prints… now a person can easily scan and print copies at home — breaking copyright laws and taking money out of the pockets of professionals.

Photographers could either throw in the towel or get creative.  Change the way they do business to survive in an ever changing world where technology is cheaper and easier every day.

That is what we, as artists, are being forced to do:  change the way we do business.

There is a lot of panic, anger and fear — artists pulling their art off the internet completely, password protecting so much of it that the chances of anyone seeing it get slimmer by the day.  The simple fact is that art has been swiped, stolen and copied forever.  It is a fact of life.  Granted, it could get a lot easier with fewer consequences, but I believe we need to keep balance.  Don’t simply awfulize and hide in a hole — make your opinions heard but also make a plan of how you will continue given either outcome of this threatening legislation.

But here’s the good news:  what are we, if not creative?

I believe that artists will always be valuable and will be able to prosper, keeping their creativity and integrity in tact.  Will we have to be more careful or change some of the ways we do business?  More than likely.  But let’s remember, we are not the only group of artists, nor the only type of business that has ever come up against adversity.

Who can say how careers in art will change in this decade, only time will tell.  But if you give in to fear I can tell you how your career will change:  it will cease to exist.

I would like to offer this to you:

  • stay true to your art and nurture your creative side
  • make your voice heard – but make it an empowered and informed voice, not a fearful one
  • don’t let fear paralyze you
  • if you want to make a living as an artist, there are risks.  But there are risks in any profession so don’t buy into the “artist victim” mentality

Life and art will go on, it just depends how you choose to relate to it. I choose to be positive, take action to make my dreams come true and create from a place of peace and happiness.  I hope you join me!

~ Tara