On Copying

August 1, 2017 by NJPainter

I am new at this.
Painting for a living (the business) and discovering my style (the technique) are the things that I confront (for better or worse) every morning.

Still, I am asked to copy other people’s work on a daily basis.

Especially when it comes to the business of wedding jackets.

I don’t know who started this trend of keepsake jackets or where it came from. Only that it’s a relatively new one and that it fits into my business model nicely. I have fully jumped on this train and frankly, it’s a wonderfully consistent source of income. I probably do one “Mrs.” or “Forever” or “Just Married” jacket a week. They’re the most nerve-wrecking to work on but they’re also the most fun because they’re super personalized. I didn’t invent this idea, but it’s great one because it can done a thousand different ways.

And because all wedding ideas come from Pinterest — when brides stumble on this idea – they usually find one of a handful of leather painters doing really great work in this area:


Bash Calligraphy


Wolf & Rosie


Alli K Design

“Can you do something like this??,” I get asked, all the time.

Answering these inquiries has been one of the hardest learning curves of all.

One part of my brain screams internally; “These artists are amazing! Look at the shading and depth of those roses! They have year-long wait lists!”

The other part of my brain knows: it’s not that serious. Nobody is looking at the subtle nuances of my flowers versus theirs. Sometimes I don’t even think they see the difference. And they’re not considering the fact that they’ve just asked me to copy what someone else invented. They’ve found an idea, see that I paint on leather, and want to know if they can have something similar.

So, I try to break it softly; “I can’t copy this artist’s work exactly,” I say. “But I can build off of anything you see here in the shop, incorporating details or colors specific to your event.” And then I say, “This jacket is by [insert artist’s name]. They do beautiful work! If you are looking for this exact style, you should absolutely contact them. If you have fallen in love with their work, I want them to have your business! Alternatively, if you feel that I can create something you’ll love – then I would be honored to have your business as well.”

Set the expectation. Offer an honest alternative. Respect your fellow artists.

Karma, baby.