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Self-Taught Artists Can Make it Big

By October 10, 2005

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If there's only one thing you get from the recent 'scandal' of the artist Jack Vettriano 'copying' photos for his paintings, it should be inspiration from the fact that he's a self-taught artist who, today, is Scotland's most commercially successful artist.

Vettriano earns an estimated "earns 500,000 a year in royalties alone from the posters, umbrellas and biscuit tins that sport his work" reports the Sunday Herald. "His most famous painting of the ballroom couple on the beach with the butler in attendance with umbrella has been reproduced at least 12 million times since it was first sold for 3,000 to a private collector in 1991." (Take a look at The Singing Butler.)

According to the Scotland on Sunday newspaper "at 21, his schoolteacher girlfriend bought him a watercolour set. In the evening he sat in the back room of his parents' house struggling furiously with the Old Masters, such as William MacTaggart and Samuel Peploe."

Vettriano sold his first two paintings in a Royal Scottish Academy exhibition in 1988. After the sale, he "took the gamble, became a full-time painter and left for Edinburgh. In a symbolic break from the past, he also took his mother's maiden name."

Scotland on Sunday quotes Michael Bury, a reader at the University of Edinburgh's history of art department, as saying "Artists have always made use of other people's work but, unlike in writing, there is rarely any occasion when an artist has to admit it. Michelangelo and Rembrandt did the same. This does not in any way devalue Vettriano's work."

Vettriano is quoted in the Scotsman as saying: "It is very important that we all value the role that museums and art galleries play in our lives. They offer a creative environment in which we can enjoy, learn and take inspiration from."

The Sunday Times in the UK quotes another prominent Scottish artist, Peter Howson as saying: "Artists throughout the ages have copied, but the issue is how you do it. The first thing you must learn is not to get caught seriously. ... Personally I think it is better not to copy because it is not as authentic.

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