Tartaglino talks about the business of art  

Page H. Gifford

At the Jan. 17 meeting of the Fluvanna Art Association, artist Tom Tartaglino discussed the business of art, focusing on copyright issues, galleries, and exhibits. Members were particularly interested in how copyrighting protects their work as well as understanding what is original work, not copied from another source.

Tartaglino began by talking about his artistic journey.

“I was always told never to become an artist.” He pursued his dream of becoming an artist late in life, at age 38 when his father inherited some money and shared it with his children. After moving to Palmyra “to raise vegetables and children,” Tartaglino took his share and used it for tuition to attend VCU and get a BFA in 1994. He was then encouraged to get a master’s degree but decided he had enough education and was anxious to apply what he had learned and begin painting.

There are many things artists learn along the way but sometimes the business of art appears less glamorous than the creation of it. Copyright is an important piece, sometimes overlooked not to be ignored by those who want to make money from their art or exhibit.

“A work is automatically copyrighted when you put a c in a circle next to the signature,” he said. He added the copyright is good for the life of the artist plus 70 years.

The concern of members was borrowing the image from others, particularly photographers, and passing it off as their original work.

“If it is a photograph always get permission. Don’t copy the work of others but be inspired.” He explained that copyright protects style and form. When this is in dispute, a judge can decide if it is protected under copyright law or fair use.

“Part of the criteria for determining copyright protection would be if there was economic impact.” One example he gave is Andy Warhol’s use of the iconic image of Marilyn Monroe. His version transformed Marilyn Monroe’s image into something new – pop art. “The judge would look at the economic impact and whether someone reproduced another artist’s work for monetary gain and this would be a red flag,” he said. “Also, if it doesn’t have a style, that makes a weaker case as well.” There is no denying that Matisse, Van Gogh, and Rembrandt had their styles and that they are highly recognizable.

“Style depends on skill and talent and it becomes the signature of the artist.” Many artists can show some influence of artists they admire but eventually evolve into their style.

“When I visited an Indian Reservation they asked me to sign an agreement not to reproduce their cultural works.”

He suggests the best way to create original works of art is to be inspired by what surrounds you in your environment, whether it is nature or the people in it.

“Start by taking photos and return to the same place and take more photos.” He warned them to take photos at face value and to look for details and to keep a sketchbook with notes and ideas.

“For example, how dark was that blue or red? Cameras are not always adequate for this reason. Tartaglino has always said his art training gave him a good foundation but his passion for painting and his experiences have been his artistic sustenance.

“My inspiration for a work of art usually happens while observing a scene many times. The scene will draw me in and I start to see what it is I am attracted to. The details help to determine this.”

For artists seeing is believing, and delving deeper into the subject, whether it is a landscape or a portrait, finding an underlying meaning is what makes a work original. He said that his realism comes from looking at these details.

“I will be looking for subtleties that an impressionistic handling would miss,” he said. It has always been this close observation and concentration on details, like headlights on a specific make, model, and year of a car, that creates a realistic depiction of a person, place, or thing we can all identify with.

“Getting established as an artist is difficult. When I started I painted 21 paintings and sold 11,” he said. “Do not go to a gallery with your arms loaded with work. They get hundreds and thousands of submissions.” It was artist Fred Nichols of the Nichols Gallery that noticed Tartaglino and helped him get started. Corporations and places like the University of Virginia and Sentara medical centers will have people scouting the area for artistic work. He said that what sells best are landscapes. Galleries take a 50 percent commission.

Tartaglino said,, “art is an important part of my life and I always come back to it because it is where I am led. I am inspired and I am always looking for the next thing I want to create.”

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