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Articles by Chris A. Paschke, CPF GCF

PFM Guest Editorial "Defending Artist Copyright"

December 1999

In the September issue of PFM Stuart Altschuler wrote the article "Selling Up Strategies" which featured the "Winter" image from my Four Seasons series available from Wild Apple Graphics. I was flattered he selected my artwork and pleased he was promoting advanced design within the industry.

As a professional custom frame designer who specializes in creative framing applications and selling up, I agree the idea of showcasing upper end designs is very good. When a customer sees the possibilities and differences between an inexpensively mounted/laminated unglazed poster placed into a simple metal frame compared to a floated, triple matted, accented strip, filleted, 2" wide high-end bamboo moulding, well there is no comparison. Selling up sells itself.

As an educator and friend I applaud Stuart's design ideas, but there is a problem. I have written before about the importance of not infringing upon a piece of 'fine art'. A framer's job is to enhance and protect. I have also stated that 'decorative art' is just that, inexpensive open edition poster art that is much less restricted to design limitations.

I have cut and accented poster images for the sake of decorative art and I would be a hypocrite to say Stuart should not have duplicated or pulled a portion of my image into the design. After all they are only posters. But when creating an innovative decorative design that literally duplicates part of the poster image on outer framing boundaries (i.e.: embossing, surface painting, contempo panel designing, glass etching) there still need to be limitations and observations.

Even when it is just decorative art there is an issue of copyright and more importantly accuracy. The issues I have with Stuart's featured glass etching design is two fold.

As an artist my copyright has been violated. I created the image as a visually textured rice paper collage layered by the Chinese character for winter. In order to have copyright freedom to duplicate this character onto the mat, or in this case glass, the publisher should have been contacted for permission. This is really no different from the rules surrounding a canvas transfer. In turn Wild Apple may have called me for permission or release.

This is of utmost importance especially in this case because of using this piece in an Internationally educational venue, a published article in Picture Framing Magazine.

The second issue that concerns me involves the duplication itself. There are many versions of Asian script from 'clerical' (structured) script to 'grass' (freely written) script, all being different styles of writing the same character. All of the 4000 basic characters have specific elements that create the word meaning. Dots, short down strokes, horizontal bones...are all intricate parts that make up the word. Though I have been studying Western calligraphy for twenty-five years I have only been involved with Asian characters for the past fifteen and I will never be able to read or speak this beautiful language. I do however recognize characters, can tell when they are well written forms, and often when they are written incorrectly. The important thing is that when dots or small strokes are forgotten or eliminated it can drastically change the word, or make it illegible.

The Chinese character glass etching in Stuart's sample has been changed. By eliminating the two lower dots the word no longer says 'winter', in fact I can't determine what it says. If he had called for permission to reproduce this as an etching first I would have warned it would need to be duplicated exactly, then I would have requested he not reproduce it in any way at all.

Yes as a fine art calligrapher and framer I realize we often write and carve words, names and letters onto mat board, but at least we know how to spell them and what they mean, they are in English. In this case we could very easily bastardize or damage the beautiful Asian language. And as in all cases 'ignorance is no excuse'.

Please framers, be careful and sensible when designing creative applications to increase the value of a framing job. Just as Stuart, I teach you how to enhance decorative art framing by decorating mats, applying laminates, and expanding the artists image from within the boundary of the painted poster...but every time I have done this I have requested permission.

Only the artist or publisher can give you permission to go that far with a design. Remember that Disney would not let us use Mickey or Minnie Mouse in any way to enhance the PPFA competition pieces last year. It was a copyright issue then, and it still is now.

Copyright © 1999 Chris A Paschke

For more articles on mounting basics look under the mounting section in Articles by Subject.
Additional information on all types of mounting is found in:
The Mounting and Laminating Handbook, Second Edition, 2002,
The Mounting And Laminating Handbook, Third Edition, 2008 and
Creative Mounting, Wrapping, And Laminating, 2000 will teach you everything you need to know about getting the most from your dry mount equipment and materials as an innovative frame designer.

All books are available from Designs Ink Publishing through this website.

Chris A Paschke, CPF GCF
Designs Ink
Designs Ink Publishing
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