A Little Heart to Heart . . .

After about my tenth or so painting, I had a friend {let’s call her Ashley,} ask me if I could replicate a canvas she saw earlier that day in an upscale boutique. Ashley didn’t want the painting, but her neighbor who was with her shopping actually wanted it. As ignorant as I was about the painting business, I still knew you were never suppose to copy someone else’s work . . . but I did it anyways.

Yes, I copied someones art. Somewhere between my tenth and fifteenth piece, there is a bonafide rip-off in my portfolio.

I knew it was wrong. I knew it was bad. But I still did it anyways. Because someone asked me to. I painted it – as close as I could to the original. Asked $30 or so bucks for it {I was dirt cheap then!} and went on my merry way. And I would like to say “And here I am now!

But let me tell you about that piece . . . It looked like crap. Absolutely horrible. First off, it is impossible to copy someone else’s work and pull off the same interpretation. Maybe not completely impossible, but basically impossible. Every time I think back on that ghetto canvas, I cringe. And honestly, it has been a thorn in my side since the day I handed it over.

Several years ago, I called Ashley and asked her for that neighbor’s email address since she and Ashley no longer live in the same neighborhood. Once I had the email address, I immediately contacted her and begged her to let me buy it back. I would give her way more than she paid for it. I would paint her anything to replace it, any size canvas she wanted – if she would give it back to me. Whatever it took, just please LET ME HAVE THAT CANVAS BACK!!

I never got a response.

And that canvas is still out there. I hope in a landfill somewhere. Deeply buried so that no one can see it. Ever. But it doesn’t matter who sees it, saw it, seen it . . . I still did it. I copied someone else’s art. And it pisses me off every time I think about it. That was low. Low on my part. How could I have been so lame?

Oh, yeah sure – I changed up the font. I made the flower petals fatter, the center of the flower was definitely a little larger, I even bent the stem a little differently. But it was still someone else’s idea.

Not that it can get any worse, but it doesn’t help that it was a local gal that I copied. A Tennessee girl that is in a neighboring county. She is big in the art industry. The art I was asked to copy wasn’t even hand painted, only a print on canvas. And to be frank, it wasn’t even all that expensive. Over the past six years, I have received nine more request to “mimic” this same artist. I always send them to her website. Perhaps I’m trying to rectify the wrong.

That $30 bucks wasn’t worth the guilt I still have. It wasn’t worth the stupidity I feel. And it definitely wasn’t worth the chance of ruining my reputation in children’s art world. And until this day, I don’t really think very many people know of the story – or at least the specifics. So, I just ratted myself out to the 1500 people who will read my blog today.

As prevention from ever doing that again, I decided that I had one style – only 1 style – of canvas that I was going to do. I had never seen anything like it and would ONLY paint that one style. I thought it was cute and worked for boy or girl. And it was a safe style to paint.

This was my original painting using this style. I think it was my number 3 painting ever. Using only 3 colors and I stitched around a few of the circles. No hi-lighting or fading. No mixing of colors!

And look out world! I added another color in the mix! But ¬†you know what – this was my design. It got fancy when I went from the 5/8″ thick canvas to the 1 1/2 thick ones – when the staples went from the side to the back. I could now paint a different pattern on the side!!!

I created it and I painted it till I was just about sick of it. But then I thought of another “great” design {after about a year+!}

And that was it – my 2 designs. And that was basically all I painted. I rarely stepped away from these two. Both styles made me practice my skill of painting, layering colors, mixing colors and basically built my business. And to this day, the Funny Bones Collection is still my favorite – although it has seen a few changes over the past few years.

It amazes me that I really built my business on only 2 designs. But I did. At some point I did throw in another design – the Classic Collection.

Great design, but wasn’t children’s art. And to keep the focus on kids, I stopped painting the Classic Collection. I hated that I no longer was catering to everyone and just shrunk my target market, but that is where the passion was at. And I felt and still firmly/strongly believe that is who I’m suppose to target.

I try hard to keep this fun and not so business like. I receive emails all the time for advice – and I freely give it. I have no secrets – or at least no real secrets when it comes to this business. I’m straight forward, blunt and really don’t care who succeeds me in this business. I’ll do whatever I can to help push another fellow artist up the ranks. Even if that means – for whatever reason – that I stay exactly where I’m at. I work at my own pace, have a good time and go to sleep at night knowing that I keep it real and honest {when I do sleep.} Isn’t that what it’s all about?

I spend a ridiculous amount of money so that I can use the fonts you see on my canvases. That’s right, the ones that didn’t come on my computer or the ones that mimic my own writing, I pay to use them. Is it cheap – nope. But I do it because it is the right thing to do.

I’ve never set out, other than the one time I referred to at the beginning of this post, to copy other’s work. Nor use their backgrounds at templates. Even when I’m working with fabrics, I look at it, match the colors and then put it away before I start painting. The times that the pattern came too close to looking like the original, I immediately pointed it out and gave the designer or maker of the fabric {or bedding} all the credit for that design. And yes, there have been a few times they came way too close.

I had every intention of doing medallions of sorts – but this? This was just weird for me. I still can’t believe how precise this matched the fabric in the nursery. I knew I stared at it for a long time, but didn’t know what an imprint the pattern left on my brain. I can still sketch this exact design out because when I close my eyes I see it perfectly. But in that blog post, I gave the fabric designer credit for her work and design. And if I remember correctly, I asked {begged} her not to sue me for painting this pattern in that post! I really don’t know the rules of crossing mediums – copying fabric. Obviously, the assumption is it is wrong for a fabric designer to copy another fabric designer, but someone to paint a pattern from fabric? I don’t know. I try to avoid it and the couple of times it happened {like above,} I beg for forgiveness and credit the “real” creator of the design.

The last thing on my mind was that people would want to copy me?!?! Actually, that makes me laugh obnoxiously when I think about it. Copy me?! How absurd! Why would anyone want to copy my art?!

But they do.

And the best analogy is this – Copying art – or even using someones work as a template is like wearing their underwear. Or at least that is how I feel. It is like you come up in my camp, found my best and favorite pair of panties and just put them on. But then not only did you put them on, you wore them in front of me! Then you took them off and put them back where you found them like it was okay.

I sorta feel invaded. Wouldn’t you?

Ever so often, I have that feeling that maybe I need to quit painting. Just stop. Stop with the website, the blogging and all the other stuff that comes along with it. I put myself out there, so of course stuff like this is going to happen. Am I perfect in this business – hell no. But I try so hard to do the right thing in this business. Along the way, I’ve received compliments, praise and such kind words from those who I consider to be way up there in the industry. And I try hard to pass it along to other new and upcoming artists.

And know that when I say “copying,” I’m not talking about someone using dots or stripes or whatever I use on my canvas. I’m talking about the ones that use my designs like a template. I’ve seen the ones that don’t change a thing except the name or initials. Or the ones that change the colors, but even the unique shading is the same. ???? The thing is, I’ve tried complicating my designs – with all the layering, the shading, etc. It is hard to look at a painting that is nothing but dots and say it is copied {even if the shading is eerie similar.} Because it is nothing but dots! I’m positive a blue-million people do come up with that design on their own! {Again, look at my first picture above!} Everyone loves a great dot so you can’t copy something so common. But my Border Collection – HELLO!

I would love to tell you that this entire collection was designed to smoke copiers out. Because it sorta did! haha! Just know that there is a lot on this canvas. That was planted specifically where it is for design reasons. And I went out on a limb when I first started this collection.

Is the copying going to stop? No. But I want you all to know that imitation is not the best form of flattery – it is more like you’re wearing someones used underwear. I don’t know about you, but I find that disgusting.

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About Kim
I picked up a paint brush for the first time 7 years ago, and haven't put it down since. My goal - To paint a canvas for my son's nursery. I never dreamed a business would be born out of it. {And if you saw the first canvas, you would think the same thing, too!}


  1. Laura Frazier says:

    Wow…I take it from reading this that someone has attempted to reproduce your work. No way no how will they EVER be successful nor produce the QUALITY of work that you have done Kim. I feel like I can say this 4 canvases later and needing to get on your waiting list now! I am so sorry that you are having to deal with this, as if you do not have enough going on. All I can say is, don’t let them steal your JOY or your panties! You put your heart and soul into your work and I appreciate that everytime I see Emma’s canvas in her room, Gavin & Emma’s in their bathroom, my canvas wall with the F and when I helped a friend welcome home sweet Kenley with her amazing canvas I gifted her. Keep painting with your HEART and rest assured that can NEVER be reproduced!

  2. Lisa Sultemeier says:

    Very well stated. I’m sorry this is happening to you. I’m just thankful that I found the ORIGINAL at least a year ago and have followed you daily ever since. LOVE your style & unique designs more than you know. Keep it up for all of us artistically-challenged folks out here! BTW, I’m on your list – #83 or something like that!

  3. Leigh says:

    Good for you girl! I’m sorry it’s happened to you. But you are taking it like a champ and not whining. You are awesome!

  4. linda miller says:

    Did someone make you mad?? Ha, know how you feel.
    This happens in all businesses. When I was a top producer in real estate, I had it happen so many times. We had a policy that we didn’t lock our office doors. (That alone sounds so stupid for a business that’s 100% commission.) I was always helping people in my office mostly with marketing or organization.
    Enters a sweet young woman with the makings of a great Realtor. I was always helping her and was very giving……..UNTIL…..one night I noticed that she had a folder in her office that was just like mine………I was wrong……It wasn’t just like mine……IT WAS MINE! (Before I go any further with this, I was in her office talking to a person that was working for her when I saw my stuff.) I was so shocked by this. I called my husband and he told me to go in there and take everything that was mine. (My name is on every sheet of paper.)
    So I did. She had different pages in individual clear sheets in a notebook, along with my listing folder and marketing info. I took it all back, put it in my office and LOCKED the door. The next day I had a meeting with the owner of my company, told her what happened without any names mentioned and informed her that my door would always be locked when I was away. I never did have a little talk with “kathy”. Didn’t feel it was necessary. I know she got my message when she saw her office nice and clean.
    When people say that real estate is a cute throat business, they are so right. But it’s in all business and in life………
    Sorry this has happened to you but don’t let it get you down. You are so busy with your work and doing what you can handle……..Just let it go. This person is not even worth the time it took to write your post.
    Kim, you are so talented and creative, have a good head on your shoulders, are loved my many, and have a full life. That’s what counts.
    Bad people will always be there. The only thing you can do is learn to recognize them and to get far away as soon as possible.
    Can’t wait to see your daughter’s room!
    Linda Miller

  5. Megan says:

    I love that you keep it real. I paint too, nothing like you do, but I couldn’t imagine copying someone else’s work dot for dot or with their style of shading. To me it’s boring and that copycat person has no creativity. Art is supposed to be fun. But maybe that’s me and my background talking. I have a BA in art and am finally on my own as an art teacher this fall! Yikes! I can’t wait though, I love watching my students work on finding their own path.

    I did have a question for ya, not related to this post but since you say you like to help others, I’d love a suggestion. I don’t have access to the art books yet, to order from, and I can’t remember if I saw them in them or not… but I’m wondering where you get your canvases. You’ve mentioned ordering them. Do you go through a supplier? I love the canvases at Michael’s (the thick ones like you use – for the thickness, the professional quality, etc) but hate the price. I buy them when they are on sale but was wondering what you used. If you could help me with this, I’d really appreciate it! My email address is megan.sloan@gmail.com I am doing a painting for my brother’s girlfriend as a memorial tribute to him and had to go buy one without a sale price… yikes! … but did it anyway. Just thought if I could order some ahead of time and stock up, it would help me paint more and have some supplies for my kiddos! Thanks!

  6. Stephanie says:

    I kept seeing you write about this on Twitter. . . I am just sick about it. As an artist, I follow others for community, for inspiration, for tips and you have always been so generous with your time and advice. I can’t even imagine how your feeling, but that panty comparison gives me a visual that frankly, I don’t wanna keep in my head. Ha Ha, really ~ I need to scrub my brain.

    Listen, people who know your work, really get how much time and love you put into a piece. Your work has evolved, just like you. And people who hop on, in a moment without thought to the ramifications are just fooling themselves. I hope that their conscious eats away at them.

    Hang in there, and I too would LOVE to know where your getting your canvases. I get mine at Blick art supply, but they don’t have some of the large sizes that I would like. I think you mentioned once that you made your canvases. Do you still do that?

  7. Abbi says:

    I hear ya!!!! I stopped blogging about 3-4 months ago…my excuse being pregnant…but really I was so mad that someone not only took my picture and claimed it to be theirs but MY.ENTIRE.POST. Copied WORD for WORD! I felt so violated! I felt cheated. I understand in the blogging and art and craft world it happens. BUT it shouldn’t! I do crafts that I LOVE for people to copy and change and make there homes better. I don’t sell most of them so I don’t mind. But to take my blog and copy and post just hurt. I had to quit for a while. It made it not so fun!

    Anyway sorry to rant but I hear ya. I feel ya. I know it hurts! Thank you for sharing. It needs to be shared. I haven’t yet. It happened a while ago so I am not sure I will. But I get it! Thank you for putting this out there.


  8. Rach says:

    AMEN sister!! Well said. Now…….favorite or whatever…if they go stealing your POLKA DOT PANTIES and putting those back……we have a 10x more serious problem!!! LOL :)

  9. Joanne says:

    You know living in the Nashville area, and having grown up here, I’m sensitive as most of us are to the intellectual property that is conveyed in any art, be it music, lyrics, or other mediums. If a songwriter took liberty with another artist’s work, not only would they be exiled from the song writing community, but they could suffer serious consequences legally. I say this to reiterate, copy cats are not cool. Don’t do it and ruin a good thing for the rest of us. Thanks for your vent, I love seeing the timeline of your work. One of your top fans!!!

  10. I completely agree with you, Kim. I see so much of this copying on etsy. Be assured you are a true artist because this is art you developed on your own. I see/read about people calling themselves artist because they have a degree in the field; paint a few stripes on a small canvas and slap on a hundred dollar price tag and have the nerve to call something that took them 15 minutes to make, art. Then what gets me is people eat it up, buy it and pay the ridiculous high price.
    Kim you are a true artist that cares and your work is worth every penny. Don’t feel bad about what happened ages ago. Every artist, in all kinds of field go through the same thing. So, keep on, keepin’ on! :-) This world is a little more colorful because of your beautiful art.

  11. Jennifer Logan says:

    YOU do such a good job, I can’t imagine anyone ever trying to duplicate and expect theirs to be just as good. I am sure that it happens to every artist, just like it has happened to you. Keep going, you are very good at your craft otherwise, I am sure we all wouldn’t just love reading your blog and enjoy seeing all of your creations. Which, to this day, I do find very amazing and you never cease to put me in awe.

  12. Gage says:

    I’ve seen you talking about this on Twitter and I hate that it’s happening to you. If it makes you feel any better, everytime I see one of these sites , and I’ve seen several, I always think of you first. I Immediately think “They’re copying Kim’s work!!!!”. Don’t know if that makes it any better, but it should. You are the original, girl!

  13. Sarah says:

    What’s funny for me is that I found you while searching for inspiration for a project I was working on in my own kids’ rooms. I was never satisfied with my attempt and I put the whole thing aside. What got me stuck on you out of all the other artists in this genre was the similarity in the general look to your painted canvases and mine that were more about collage than painting. Our fields were similar, mine were: bold pattern border, a curvacious/Victorian frame around a busier central pattern with a bold initial in the center.
    But, let me tell you, I like your work so much better than my own HAHA! I enjoy looking at all your photos, I love seeing the detail and creativity that go into them. I love your willingness to share that. Frankly I think those are business boosters for you because it shows there’s more than just a pink circle on that patch of canvas. I’m sorry your work was stolen like that. I hope you can find resolution or be able to let it go so it doesn’t eat away at your own, real, creativity. Thanks for sharing your journey in pictures, it makes me realize that maybe I need to step down with my art instead of expecting I can pick up where I left off *years* ago and work my way back up to completing those pieces that brought me to you in the first place.
    PS My husband is in product/packaging design and I don’t even want to think about how much money he’s spent on fonts for his freelance work ;) Or how much time he puts into creating his own.

  14. Sorry to hear this, people can be so stupid sometimes. Don’t worry, though, you are doing a fabulous job and it would be extremely tough to be as good as you are. I know it might sound like a cliche, but don’t let this experience stop you, let it make you stronger and better!

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