Last Saturday I set up my vendor booth at a small town reunion festival in the heart of SC. It is a yearly event on the Saturday closest to the Fourth of July but this year was a little different. The former leader of the reunion committee passed away last year. Eliza Claxton was a wonderful woman, loved by many for her generous ways. I found out at her memorial service that I was only one of many people in Calhoun County, SC that she uplifted in some way. I may never have started selling my art at festivals if not for her encouragement.
8 years ago, I was selling some of my work at the local flea market when a neighboring vendor suggested I get a booth at the Fort Motte festival. I told her I wasn’t a good enough artist or salesperson to sell at festivals. One reason I was working at the flea market was to get used to talking to people about my art and learn how to sell from a booth, but I was reluctant to make the switch to working as a “real” artist at a festival. Anyway, this woman talked me into calling the coordinator of the festival and when I called Eliza Claxton, she was friendly and talked me into getting a booth. I thought I could do it since it was a small festival and only 10 miles from home (about as close as anything in my rural area).
The first time I showed up at the festival, knowing no one and feeling very unsure of myself, Eliza walked up to me and gave me a big smile and a hug and welcomed me to her community. She continued to mentor me in more ways than I can say. I will always be able to hear her voice introducing me to people as “our artist”. I felt so proud every time I heard her say this, she really inspired me to share my art with others.
I’m primarily a landscape painter, but sometimes will draw quick portraits at festivals. Eliza had me draw her many years ago during the Fort Motte festival and after she passed away I felt the need to try to paint her portrait. I knew she would encourage and support me in this effort if she was still with us, and would share the results with everyone she knew. So this year, I took the barely finished portrait to the festival to share with those who loved Eliza. Many people visited my booth to see her portrait and some even took snapshots.
Two weeks later I was surprised to see my painting in the local newspaper printed along with an article submitted by the Fort Motte Reunion Committee about the festival and Eliza Claxtons part in it. Feeling a little awed and proud, I began feeling worse as I read the article and found no mention of the painting or the artist. I had not given anyone permission to reproduce the picture. I was surprised that no one told me it would be in the paper, but I was shocked that I saw no mention of my name as the artist.
I realize it may not have violated copyright laws since no one made money from it, but I feel like it was disrespectful and my tribute to Eliza was besmirched and belittled. I hadn’t even finished signing the work and certainly hadn’t planned for it to be publicized. What’s the world coming to? Is there no respect for the printed image now that the internet has made everything public? I’d like to know your thoughts about this situation.