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An art blog by Jon Coffelt on The Whole 9

Jon Coffelt, highly acclaimed artist, activist and curator, is a former gallery owner living and working in Manhattan. Coffelt decided to keep his distinctive Southern drawl.

Scott Blake’s Chuck Close Problem

This is about an article shown here…

If you are copying the work of a famous artist and if this famous artist tells you to stop do you?

My reply:

Responsibility and ethics rear their heads here.
Because your art education never exposed you to Chuck Close doesn’t mean it is OK for you to make work that is so close to his footprint without dealing with the consequences. You should not be angry with Chuck Close. Actually, the people you should be angry with were your art instructors who didn’t bother to educate properly especially if they say saw that you were treading on thin ice such as copyright infringement.

Too many art schools today allow their students to all but copy work and techniques of other artists and many never bother to have a discussion about this with these students. What alarms me most about this is the copyright infringement that may well happen due to this overlook of something I feel is so basic. Why are the art schools not teaching basic art history nowadays? Living in New York, I see derivative constantly now. Used to be it was a rarity to see derivative work. Galleries, too, are in collusion especially if they show questionable work with a wink and a nod. Art shouldn’t always be what one can get away with. Just because an artist has a MFA doesn’t mean they know more about art history. This is growing more and more apparent. Artist should understand that they should not copy another more prominent artist’s work. Besides, who wants their art identity tied up with another artists work. Its almost lazy. Too bad these young artists paid so much money to higher education only to be shafted by these same institutions who were supposed to teach them the correct way.

Even if the artist is self-taught, this is by no means an excuse, especially in our saavy world with very easy access to learn about others work.

Intellectually, if an artist finds out his work is derivative of an artist who came before, he should work harder and make sure his work becomes more uniquely his own. This takes time. Unfortunately, most younger artists are just not ready intellectually and don’t have the resolve nor the technique to understand. This still doesn’t make the situation right and vilifying artists is still the norm rather than a free pass with a wink and a nod so tread lightly or pay dearly.


Wow. Thought provoking article. Thanks for sharing :-)

I agree, there is something being rapidly lost in the integrity and standards of being and artist. Regardless of how you understand the standards, being or becoming an artist is about developing your own. The spoiled entitlement of getting angry because another artist doesn’t want you to blatantly steal from a life time of investigation is sad and pathetic. The young man even said it was a failure on Close’s part to understand technology, when in fact the failure lies within his inability to understand originality or personal vision.

It’s this moment where people want to just be able to rip someone off or copy something and still receive the gifts and blessings of hard work and vision. Sorry kid, the world doesn’t work that way.

Also, if you consider what Close has gone through to make that work, to continue to pursue that vision, it was pretty hard fought and won. The funny thing is the young guy even mentioned how much money Close makes, as if is a factor, so what is it the guy actually wanted. To feel okay making some of the money Close makes. The position is very sad

Thanks for bringing it up Jon

Interesting blog and a very thought-provoking original link. As others have also concluded, if Scott Blake hadn’t blatantly attached Chuck Close’s name to his program without Chuck’s permission, there would probably be no legal issue here. Would there be an ethical issue? Maybe. Personally, I don’t think Scott’s program simulates Chuck’s work particularly well, certainly not well enough to fool anyone who knows Chuck’s real work or to create fakes that could be sold as originals. However, as Jon Coffelt points out, it’s the desire, intention and often the act of copying another artist’s style rather than developing one’s own that is troublesome. There’s nothing wrong with learning from other artists, being influenced and inspired by other artists or being part of an artistic trend or movement that shares certain concerns,techniques and philosophies. That is in many ways the history of how art has evolved through the centuries. But to literally copy another’s work or unique style with no conceptual or artistic ambition beyond that is, at best, a sign of either laziness or lack of creative talent. Yes, I can recreate another photographer’s image by going to the same location, shooting the same subject with a similar camera under similar conditions, but in my opinion, the result will never have the same authenticity or value as the original. Some who think you can divorce the work of art from the artist who makes it might disagree and it’s fertile ground for further investigation by both legal scholars, critics and philosophers (eg: IS there a qualitative difference between a fake Louis Vuitton bag and a fake one if they are of equal quality in their manufacture? And is there a difference between a unique logo or design and a unique work of art, or more relevantly, a unique personal style of painting or other image creation?). Furthermore, if an artist’s ’style’ can be analyzed and dissected with such precision that a computer can be programmed to perfectly simulate that artist’s work (and I sincerely doubt that this is actually possible), does it intrinsically devalue that artist’s creative genius? And can technique or style be patented or copywritten? Perhaps it all boils down to the values our culture assign to such things. Hopefully the original creator will be considered greater than the imitator by our society, at least until the imitator (or in gentler terms, the ’student’) surpasses the original master or casts the originators ideas in a new light, impressing their own unique style and personality upon them.

correction: …ORIGINAL Louis Vuitton bag and a fake one…

We’ll Miss You Cy Twombly

Yesterday Cy Twombly left us at 83. He left us with a legacy of a man who never feared or worried about his work. Although very idiosyncratic Twombly was a voice that stood and still stands the test of time. Lets take a moment and remember him and his work. ArtsBeat/New York Times has a beautiful article by Randy Kennedy. Twombly’s Wikipedia entry is
I remember the very first time I saw a Cy Twombly piece. It stirred me in such a way I chocked up a little. I felt tears well up behind my eyes. The delicate texture, the intention, the brovado and his sense of color and balance were things he never changed and throughout his career he was never a follower and his unique work stood and still stands the test of time. What do you recall of his work?


Here is one of the last public photos of Twombly

Cy’s work is stunning Jon. I can see why it brought tears to your eyes. Thank you for sharing.

Save Room For Pie

Now is that time of year when many of us artists start their Summer retreats, either away or where we are, it’s time to be in the studio. Also at this time many of us experience power struggles within ourselves. Most artists know how to tame these feelings and some seem to be constantly working on them. It feels like everything is churning at the same time just as the summer heat is coming on. Just remember the reason you are here. Remember the reasons you are doing this work. Maybe you will want to meditate and allow yourself into your practice. It will see you through the harder points. Many ideas arise as you throw yourself into your work so give yourself time to analyze and be easy on yourself and never forget always save room for pie.


With many long lazy summer days ahead I hope you get to take advantage of some of them. Relaxing can sometimes be the best thing we can do to advance our ideas and expand our horizons.

Every day, I say to myself “THIS is the day I get started on something. I AM GOING TO PAINT SOMETHING TODAY”, and I never do,… or I start, get discouraged, and stop. which is frustrating, seeing as summer really is a great time to get creative.

Just paint a stoke or two. Tell yourself that “Just a stroke or two” see if you can talk yourself into this Then let it take over.

I think it’s so much easier with a camera. Every photo excursion’s an adventure. You can be nimble. Move around, discover stuff. It’s faster, if you want it to be. Or you can go as slow if you feel so inclined. Plus with digital photography, the gratification is immediate. When I’m out shooting on a ‘location’, I let myself just go with the flow, capturing and creating spontaneously as I react to and interact with the environment. Painting is harder. It’s stationary and contained. One fills a defined space, usually with something that must all come from one’s imagination. Of course that’s the beauty of it too; you can create anything you want, limited only by the requirements of the medium. Have you considered doing what a lot of painters do and going outside the studio to sketch or photograph and create the templates and schemata for the painting(s) you will go back and create later?

just what i needed to read on my way into a shoot this morning for a creative project i’m working on wrapping up. thanks.

A Viable Plan

We must all take a stand when we are deciding what our direction in life is going to take. Sometimes we get sidetracked and sometimes we just hit the high places. We seem to meander more than we think. There comes a time when we know that the tread has to hit the pavement and for our own good, like it or not, change must happen for us to get to the next level. This change may be about letting go of something that once brought us happiness and has lost its luster and sometimes we hold on to old ideas and out of date information that no longer serves a purpose. It’s hard to let go of something we feel loyal about but if we find it is weighing us down or it no longer works for us then it is time to let it go. Making way for new things in our lives is what letting go allows us to do.
When the dust hits the road where do we stand?


Staying where we are provides an great deal of comfort. Moving forward, evolving and embracing new paradigms require risk. Fulfillment in artistic endeavors just like in life require getting out on the small branches of the tree. Jon, this recurring theme in your posts may be the single most important tool in the shed…prescribed and taken once daily will make us healthier and happier. When I read your words, I know where I want to stand…next to you.

nothing stays the same ( even if we hope it will ) it either gets better or worse never the same . It takes effort and making choices to grow in this world. Knowing where you stand is sometimes difficult to figure out and even harder to make the choices to get there.
We have an enormous capacity to learn and grow if we resist inertia and make changes.

so very very very true :)

So true~

I need a plan!!

I for one cannot stand still and I need to see progress. The more things stay the same the more frustrated I become. I try not to become a creature of habit and will take a different route home just because I need a change of scenery. Sometimes that’s all it take to get oneself out of a rut. My ideas tend to stagnate the longer I think about them and sadly most of them never see daylight. It’s sad really, that there just does not seem to be enough time in the day to accomplish all the things that need to be done.

Like Jerry says, It take a great deal of effort and choices need to be made in order to grow~


Ah Change. I am surrounded by people who are terrified of it. Unfortunately for them, things need to change in order to stay alive. If they refuse to let things change the very thing they are afraid of losing will become irrelevant and eventually be forgotten by the rest of the world that has changed around it.

Embrace Change.

Courage To Ask

Sometimes we may feel afraid of what the future brings us and sometimes we take it in stride. I feel that sometimes we need encouragement from any direction we can get it. Sometimes we need to sit quiet and wait. While patience is a virtue, I feel that the courage to ask is a virtue too. Courage to ask means that we have decided that we cant do it on our own. It takes a community is the old adage and if we put our trust in the universe then the courage to ask is the next step in getting us where we need to be. Maybe its a simple question we need the answer to and maybe its inquiring about what we should do next to grab that brass ring. Be nice to yourself. Sometimes all we need to do is ask.


YES. It takes loads of courage to ask for help…and then allow yourself to receive it…

Asking for help is often the hardest step to take, and it can also be the only thing standing between you and where you want/need to be. I always have to remind myself that asking for help can’t make a situation any worse.

I agree Jon! I also find once you do ask it’s important to listen for the response which often comes in unexpected and seemingly coincidental or extraordinary ways.

It seems to hold true that people who are the first to offer help are the last to ask for it….does this go back to an earlier post Jon, about being (or feeling) worthy?

Everything goes back to Worthy.

Bits and Pieces

Our worlds are composed of bits and pieces. These bits and pieces compile who we are. They shape and define us. We categorize, we list, we agree and we dismiss. All of these decisions make and shape us and carry over to our work. Our art is very much a part of our lives whether we realize it or not. Sometimes our art is all we have. Understanding that these bits and pieces make us who we are is one thing but taking them to the next level by being in the moment and understanding our intention with this information is how we fulfill our hearts desire. We become more than the sum of our bits and pieces. Our art is synergized into something more complex but no less compelling than the very experiences that go into shaping these bits and pieces of our lives.


Our bits and pieces are unique to each of us

Art, to me, seems to be nothing more than our attempt to make sense out of all those bits and pieces. Jon, you said it so much more eloquently.

Beautifully put Jon~

Sometimes those pieces go missing and we tend to remember them through our artistic expression. So much of who we are is implanted in the art we create and empowers the stories we each live to tell.


Reaching, Stretching, Reaching

Sometimes it seems that no matter how hard you try or how hard you work your goals are unattainable. Reaching for the stars is OK as long as you know you have to do the footwork it takes to get there. No one ever really reaches the stars but with enough time and effort and enough gumption you can come pretty damn close. Believe in yourself. Invest in yourself, You may just reach beyond what you can ever imagine. If you can perceive it you can achieve it.


“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Even when my arms feel withered from trying to touch those stars I am reminded of how brilliant the journey is. The faces and places that have presented themselves to me are priceless. Someday when I lay there in my last minutes (hopefully a long way away) I can look back and realize there was no other option than to reach for those elusive stars.

Thats beautiful Mark!

Is Everything Really Art?

Contrary to popular belief, everything isn’t and shouldn’t be considered an art form. Art is being used to sex things up and give them cache that they normally would not have. I have been reading recently that making everything art or an art form dumbs down the whole art process. Does this make you uneasy? Art in its classic form is very narrow in scope and I understand the need for so many to want to expand upon the whole concept but are we doing it at the expense of what is real and sound. Believe me there are enough art people in the classic setup of art who are abominating it as it is and for it to get watered down more is a shame and a sham. I would love to hear some fresh ideas about what this message sends to the masses.
In the article,
[ Call The Art Police], Diane Ragsdale explores the reasons she feels that its OK to broaden the scope of art from what she considers the norm. To a degree, I feel she is right especially about good art being in small towns and art festivals that abound but there has to be a point somewhere that people say WTF. Maybe this broadening is happening to bring more people into art and is used as a gateway to get people who will to go on to explore the classics but I am just not sure.


Interesting thoughts…and interesting to think how different parts of the world view “art.” I came across a piece of writing once that really made me realize how vital creativity is to life ~ “The Balinese language has no word for “art” and “artist.” To the Balinese, art is not a category; it is a way of life. Therefore, there is no need for those definitions.”

I still feel that democratizing art is not the answer to keeping some things sacred.

No, everything is NOT art. Everyone is NOT an artist (even if I admire Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol).

I feel that art should cause a reaction. If it’s just a pretty picture; it’s just a pretty picture. True art pushes the boundary of the artist, the mediums, perspective…something. It is not always easy to see the difference especially if it’s representing a personal struggle within the artist. I aspire to create art. I’ve yet to produce anything I’d consider fabulous. One or two good pieces here and there. I lack the execution and knowledge for my ideas therefore I will probably never reach “Artist”. I will enjoy creating none the less. I’ll continue accepting commissions and sales. Thankfully some one else thinks it’s art.


Being worthy is a very nice place to be. To get there is sometimes an anomaly. Worthy is a very unique space that we all strive for and more times than not it sneaks up on us without us ever realizing it. Worthy sometimes comes in phases that are totally unpredictable. Worthy is when we know we have honored our true selves and we are ready for the rewards we have worked so hard for. Worthy cannot be bought and paid for as it is priceless. We each know where we stand and what we understand about our worthiness. Worthy makes our knees weak but our hearts strong. Worthy is inner power. Tell me please. What is worthy to you?


You. Thanks again for your hlep in New York — that was priceless…as are you. Look forward to seeing you again soon.

Worthy is the decision to take action and make material the seeds of idea, planted by the Unknown into already prepared soil of certain aptitudes within each of us; thus, “Worthy” is to honor our blessing “to do” by doing.

To me, worthy is something that I am feeling more and more. For years I was “accomplished” but I never felt worthy, which the success only fueled. It has only been in the losing of everything the universe had given that I have found the seed of my own worthiness. As I have nurtured my self worth I feel a sense of accomplishment, self love and place in this world that I am worthy of never before possible. So long story made short, worthy is simply feeling comfortable in your own skin.

I grew up with a mother with very low self esteem and self confidence and an overly domineering father. My mom and her sisters are all very creatively talented people who have no self esteem. I’ve had struggles with this all my life, but feel that I’m in a good place now…finally building my life on my own values and shedding the other crap. Moving 3000 miles away helped. It’s been a journey for sure, is still in progress, and has been very painful at times, but I guess this was part of my “ride.” Worthy is being comfortable in my own skin…being ok about talking about my feelings and what is important to ME, and it’s taken me a long time to get to where I am now.

Glorious Imperfections

We are all very different. Some of our differences we embrace and some make us feel inferior. Sometimes we are ridiculed and sometimes we are lauded. Everything about us that makes us different give us a unique perspective to share with others. As artists, we share these similarities and differences with the world. We begin to understand how our differences play a very important role is allowing us to be the unique person we have become and by understanding our differences we are better equipped to make our world a better place. Lets strive to be different even when it makes us feel odd or on unstable ground for in this place we understand what is real and what is beautiful. The beauty that is most sublime sometimes comes from what we once considered damage. Our glorious imperfections then become gifts to ourselves and to our community.


Wonderfully said! And we are all very different, yet oddly similar in many ways as well! We all seem to have the shared gifts of emotion and passion.

The thing that is so awesome to me is that I know we are always more than the sum of our parts and this is indeed divine