After many years of running art competitions (and entering them), my interpretation of "original in concept and execution" can best be summed up thusly:
- Any reference images used in their entirety are the artist's own. Not purchased or obtained from any other source. Period.
- If elements of the artwork are created from reference images obtained from another source, they must be a) used with verifiable permission and b) placed within a completely different setting than the reference image. For instance, an artist who has never been to Africa but wants to paint an elephant, they may obtain rights to use a photo of an elephant, which they will then placed in a background of their own imagining or from their own images. The final artwork should bear no resemblance to the original reference image, other than the elephant. Using someone else's image for more than an element, even if the image is cropped, it's still utilizing their concept, not your own.
- About the only gray area for me is a group still life or model set-up, if the artist participates in the arrangement. An argument could be made either way as to being "original in concept."
- If the artwork is done in a workshop or class setting, it is not original in execution.
- I don't think that asking artist friends for their thoughts on a painting is crossing the line. Indeed, I believe it would be naive to think someone isn't going to make a comment that leads to a modification. Just make sure they keep their hands to themselves.
I ran my opinions past a few key people that run competitions, and they basically agreed with me, although two of the five did say even an element from someone else's reference image would not meet their standards for originality of concept.
Each competition or juried exhibit will, most likely, have their own set of rules and interpretations of those rules. Read the prospectus! Some competitions are very strict and others are more accommodating. I know of a couple instances where prizes were withdrawn because of originality issues, so don't take any chances.
Your comments/feedback are welcome! Have a great weekend and remember to Live Out Loud!
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