...because home doesn't happen overnight.

I bought a canvas art piece from our home’s estate sale before the house was officially ours. {The previous owner was a painter and there were dozens of pieces up for sale.} We had originally planned to hang the piece above our mantel in front of the flatscreen TV and install a remote pulley system that would raise / lower the artwork to reveal / hide the TV. But then we {and by we, I mean mostly me} decided that was a little much. Like we were trying too hard to do something cool and different when, in reality, the best option would be to keep it simple. Now the plan is to install tongue and groove planks horizontally above the center of the mantel all the way to the ceiling and frame out the TV. Not sure exactly when that will happen but that’s the plan. FYI – We discovered a minor leak around the chimney so we’re keeping the wall above the mantel open until we’re 100% positive it’s fixed.

What to do with the artwork? Well, it’s a pretty large piece and the size limits our options. We don’t have a ton of blank wall space but there was a corner of our bedroom just begging for some art.

br mirror 10

Do you remember me mentioning it in this post? I have always wanted that mirror to reflect large scale art on the opposite wall. The estate sale piece was the perfect size but, sadly, everything else about it wasn’t doing our bedroom any favors. I leaned the painting against the wall in our bedroom for months trying, really trying, to make it work but it never did. I started thinking about tweaking it to make it work for us.

HH’s sister is a curator for an art museum in Cincinnati and when we first bought the piece she was curious and checked up on the artist, our home’s previous owner. The estate sale had mentioned some of the artwork being shown at local galleries but, in fact, that turned out to be false information. Liars! Knowing that the piece hadn’t been part of a gallery at some point in time made me feel a little better about tweaking it but I was still feeling apprehensive and guilty about ruining another person’s work. Until, one day, I just couldn’t stand it any longer.

I tried to make the piece work. It didn’t. Now it was time to suck it up and do something about it.

canvasart 1

Clearly, I am going to hell for this DIY.

I paid $95 for the canvas art and now, looking back, obviously that was steep. Hindsight is 20/20. Shortly after closing on the house, we learned that all proceeds from the estate sale and the sale of the house were donated to Hospice. I feel good knowing our money went to a worthy cause but I wanted to keep this project’s cost to a minimum to offset the $95. Ouch.

I painted over the original art with Benjamin Moore white dove leftover from our trim and ceilings. I drew up a bunch of sketches, settled on one then taped it out on my blank slate. There was very little measuring and lots of eyeballing involved. I mixed together two different shades of Martha Stewart gold paint – golden pearl + metallic gold – because I’m a gold snob. Even with all of the dozens of gold paints out there, I have a hard time finding exactly what I’m looking for. The ratio was something like 1:2 – golden pearl : metallic gold. I already had the golden pearl and I bought a 2 oz. bottle of the metallic gold for less than $3 – the only out-of-pocket expense for this DIY. I applied the gold paint with a 2″ brush, keeping the brush fairly dry. I wanted there to be movement and imperfections within the taped off areas. I wanted it to look handmade.

After everything was dry, I hung it in a corner of our bedroom.

canvas art 2

Here’s where I say, “Guess how many triangles are in this picture!” Wouldn’t that be a fun game?! I’m sorry. I get excited about shapes.

I am beyond happy with the artwork. The large scale chevrons pick up on the smaller patterns of the kilim pillow and the saddle chair. {Look Lauren, it’s THE CHAIR!}

canvas art 4

And now the aforementioned mirror has something to reflect instead of just a blank wall. This is also why I chose to paint a symmetrical image. It’s palindromic art!

canvas art 5

The edges of the chevrons are crisp but I like that you can see brush strokes within them. It almost makes the chevrons look like they are being revealed from behind the white paint. I thought about painting the wood frame black but I really like the aged patina so I’m keeping it as is. Go figure.

canvas art 3

If it’s any consolation, the leaning art on the dresker is an untouched piece from the same estate sale / artist and I don’t plan on changing it one iota.

canvas art 6

If this is bad, I don’t wanna be good.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

189 Comments

09.October.2013

now it looks like a gallery piece!! well done.

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09.October.2013

This is sad news to me. I really loved the colors in the original. I would have gladly offered your original $95, plus whatever a blank canvas costs at Michael’s.

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replied on October 9th, 2013

Thank you for saying this. This is exactly why it’s illegal to destroy or alter an original work of art. The artist is the only one who has that right. I know painting over this work wasn’t a deliberate or intentional act of vandalism, but people need to learn that this is not okay and is not how you deal with a work you don’t like. Someone out there might like it. And even if you don’t think so, the law protects the artist…at least it tries to, if only people would comply. In fact, let’s hope the original artist doesn’t see this post and/or isn’t upset enough to pursue it in court. :(

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replied on October 9th, 2013

The original artist is deceased and the family put all of her art up for sale in the estate sale.

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replied on October 9th, 2013

Copyright transfers to the heirs for 70 years after the artist’s death. So I’m not 100% sure about the legal ramifications but if copyright transfers intact, then it seems logical that the item should be returned to them, or at the very least they should give written permission to destroy it. But think about the ramifications and why the law is the way it is. What if the museum that owns the Mona Lisa sold it to someone (which is happening more and more) and that someone decided one day they no longer liked it and defaced it? Many people consider the Mona Lisa to be priceless, others might not appreciate it at all…who should decide? And where do you draw the line about what should be protected and what shouldn’t? That’s an impossible task. Van Gogh could barely sell a painting, now he’s considered one of the greatest artists in history. He’s not the only one. This is why artists and their work need to be protected no matter what the quality of the artwork might appear to be.

replied on October 10th, 2013

It’s not illegal! Where’s your source for this?

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replied on October 10th, 2013

Right Penny! I have a visceral dislike of Dali’ s work and say Thomas Kincaid, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize their talent of technique or composition, and I’d be damned if I ever altered an original because it didn’t go with my decor anymore. I never knew how how upset I would be over something line this, until this post.

replied on October 10th, 2013

Sorry, I replied under the wrong comment :(

replied on October 10th, 2013

It is illegal.
It’s called the visual artists rights act.

09.October.2013

your art, your choice. i admire your guts and think it totally fits the space now. better than collecting dust in the attic.

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replied on October 9th, 2013

As I said below, ownership does not give one the right to alter or destroy an original artwork. That right is the sole privilege of the artist. You can sell it or hide it or give it away, but you cannot alter it, according to the laws designed to protect artists. Believe me, artists need all the protection they can get…as this demonstration clearly shows how little value out society places on them.

I know Dana’s intentions were good or she wouldn’t have shared this project. But people really need to learn what is okay and what isn’t and hopefully this will help make that happen.

I’d love to see you do more artwork, Dana. Just be sure you use a different type of canvas, next time.

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replied on October 10th, 2013

Just curious – can you site the law you’re speaking of? I’ve never heard of such. Is it a state or federal law.

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replied on October 10th, 2013

It’s called the visual artists rights act.

replied on October 10th, 2013

copyright law is massively confusing and continuously being debated in court…Vara is one small part of it that attempted to clear up some of that confusion and bring some uniformity to inconsistencies from state to state. So far, it’s too soon to tell if it’s going to get the job done. Internationally, there is some broad consensus (see the Berne Convention that dates back to the 1800s) which basically affords artists the right to control their own artwork. My understanding comes from my experience in the art world and advice from an attorney specializing in visual arts. In a quick search, I came across the following ruling from a Massachusetts court which more or less sums it up: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartIII/TitleII/Chapter231/Section85s. Sorry I can’t cite the specific sections of copyright law, but that is an undertaking I don’t have time or patience for at the moment.

In general, I just want to raise awareness. Not condemn anyone. Dana’s been understanding and gracious and I appreciate her allowing this conversation to take place so that light can be shed on a subject that most Americans, even artists, are not aware of.

I actually like her piece…she doesn’t give herself enough artistic credit. :)

replied on October 10th, 2013

Penny, I just want to tell you that I appreciate your input on this post. Whether what I did was right or wrong, legal or illegal, pretty or ugly, ethical or unethical…I have learned a lot from this thread of comments. Although I struggled internally over the moral implications of painting over someone else’s work, I never once considered that it might be illegal. I am not comfortable with confrontation. I am a people pleaser at heart. To know that what I did brings disgust to some people makes me feel awful. That’s what I’m having the hardest time with.

I blog to share, to inspire, to be inspired, to write, to laugh, to be laughed at, to learn, to grow, to express myself and sometimes just to do something outside of my daily mom duties. I am a blogger, yes. But I am human. I don’t know everything. I make mistakes.

Someone commented earlier about other bloggers having done similar DIY’s in the past but they didn’t receive as much backlash. Maybe it’s because those bloggers didn’t approve the disapproving comments, maybe it’s because their DIY was better, maybe it’s because there wasn’t a story behind their paintings, maybe it’s because those bloggers are more popular or maybe there just wasn’t a backlash. But I like to think it’s because my readers have the ability to think and speak for themselves. I don’t ever want this to be a place where people are deterred from saying what they feel – whether it falls in line with the majority or the minority. We’re all adults here. We’re all entitled to our own thoughts and opinions. We can have insightful banter. We can agree to disagree. And we can do it with kindness. And respect. And sometimes {inappropriate} humor.

Peace out.

replied on October 10th, 2013

I rather doubt VARA (17 USC § 106A) would extend to the piece Dana painted over. The piece was never exhibited and the artist was never shown in a gallery. So, it would be a stretch to call it “a work of recognized stature.” And, it is my understanding that the moral rights of the author end with their death — assuming the piece was created after 1990. For those of you interested in the law, this is a link to an easy to follow article written on VARA: http://www.create-legal.com/886/vara.

All that being said, I totally get where painting over a piece of art can just feel plain wrong. On the other hand, artists have been reusing canvases — in much the same way Dana did — since painting began.

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replied on July 30th, 2014

Well said, Pamela. I agree with you 100%.

Hey, you tried to make it work, but it didn’t! So yay for you going for it and using what you had. I think your chevron art looks great in your room!

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09.October.2013

Not all art is good art. And I LOVE your new painting. Much better for the room it seems. Plus, any post where I can see that chair again is a bonus! I am so in love with that chair.

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09.October.2013

The original was pretty ugly, and I can’t believe you tried to make it work for as long as you did! New art = big improvement. At least you’ll have pretty art to take with you to hell…

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09.October.2013

Oh I have to agree with Sharon, it kind of makes my heart hurt to think that you painted over the original when your new piece could have so easily been done on a blank canvas for barely a few dollars more. That being said it’s your house and your art so it really isn’t fair for us to be a negative-nancy!

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I love the gold brushstrokes. It gives such a geometric piece a touch of organic. I say, well done and I’d buy that for double now (but, might just make my own.) ;)

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replied on October 9th, 2013

Me too. I really want to copy this for our bedroom. How many evil points do I get for blatent copying?

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replied on October 9th, 2013

That’s ironic, Julia, I was wishing you were here to guide me on this one! I am NOT an artist.

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replied on October 9th, 2013

Ditto! I want to recreate this! But–unfortunately I have zero artistic ability when it comes to doing a piece of art! Your master is my dream room. The colors are so cozy and lovely. Truly inspiring!

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replied on October 11th, 2013

Painters tape + ruler + two tubes of craft paint. Not trying to comment on what is art and what is not art, but you and anyone with 10 minutes could recreate this. Let’s not get crazy here.

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09.October.2013

I don’t understand why you couldn’t have Craigslisted the original painting, and bought a new canvas to do this. You probably would have gotten your money back, or at least most of it, and someone else would have been able to enjoy the art that the artist put their time into. This makes me sad.

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09.October.2013

Just think of it this way: if you hadn’t bought it at the estate sale, it would have been donated to Goodwill, where someone else would have purchased it for $20 and painted over it just like you did. So there. Project justified.

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replied on October 10th, 2013

I agree with Lindy! If you had donated it, it would have been painted over anyways, or even disassembled for some other project. It’s beautiful and fits your style now.

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replied on April 11th, 2014

Definitely agree with this. Most DIY’ers go to thrift stores to paint over other art work, because they like the frames or the size of the frame. It was inevitable for someone to paint over it at some point.

It is good be aware that it’s illegal to paint over original pieces of art so maybe those of us that know can be more proactive at not choosing originals.

Craigslist depending on your city is like having a yardsale now a days. People want to talk you down even before seeing the item and they want it cheap to free as if your supposed to give it to them. These are some reason’s I chose to sell on there less and less. I doubt she would have really gotten her money back. Maybe half if she was lucky.

Either way the art looks very lovely and I’m very tempted to create the same art for above my bed.

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09.October.2013

Glad you love it now! and it is very pretty. You should surround yourself with things you love, especially in the bedroom! Personally I agree with Ginger and Sharon – I might’ve tried to sell it on Craigslist or something first and then painted on a blank canvas or piece of plywood… but I can’t imagine how you do all you do as a SAHM to three, so I am sure time was very limited to execute.

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replied on October 9th, 2013

I knew this was going to be a controversial DIY and, you’re right!, time – or my impatience – was a factor. I decided to paint over the original one afternoon when the boys were at school and Mabrey was napping. Sometimes it takes me a while to come around on a big {or little} decision but once I make up my mind I want it done yesterday.

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09.October.2013

at first i was thinking, i want whatever Dana is smoking hahaha…. but then the more i look at it, the more i like it.. Bravo to you for taking a chance… (i hated the original piece btw. but someone would prob have bought it in a yard sale.) i love the new piece Dana… great job!!

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09.October.2013

I always say… it’s your home and your items and you get the freedom to do with them whatever you want! You live with them every day, we do not! Now, that being said, the “new” artwork totally ROCKS!!!!! I love that it’s a bit asymmetrical and the the gold isn’t perfect. I love the brush strokes. One ticket to awesome land!

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09.October.2013

Ooh…why must you taunt me so?? Looks great though, I can’t even wrap my mind around artwork in our bedroom yet.

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replied on October 10th, 2013

my fave part of this post was the call-out to you, Lauren, after you posted about wanting Dana’s chair in your post the other day!

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replied on October 10th, 2013

My favorite part too! And, yes, I was taunting. In a good way ;) Is it January yet?

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09.October.2013

Haha, good for you. Big improvement. HUGE. Now you have art you love AND made a very nice donation to Hospice – score!

On an unrelated note, I am loving that chunky rug in your bedroom. It’s just what I want for my living room. Would you mind sharing where you bought it? Is it soft? Does it shed like crazy? (My current jute one from RugsUSA could probably stuff an entire pillow daily with its fly everywhere fibers!)

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replied on October 9th, 2013

The jute rug is from Overstock. It’s the most expensive rug I have ever bought but the quality shines through. It doesn’t shed and is super thick and soft.

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09.October.2013

I love this! I think I may try a big canvas chevron, too…and think of H*T every time I see it :)

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Looks great Dana!! Just what that corner needed:)

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09.October.2013

I get one million evil points, because I am totally copying this!! Looks a bajillion (that’s a real word) times better than the original. Original looks like a 90’s piece. Too bad they didn’t have the teal carpet to go along with it.

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09.October.2013

This post makes me very sad. I thought it was the neatest thing that you had those pieces of art made by the former owner and were going to honor them in such bold ways. I also LOVED the original painting. I agree with Sharon above that I would have gladly paid you for it. But, it’s your art and your house, so it’s not my place to criticize. I like the new piece, too, just think a bit more color would have been nice.

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replied on August 9th, 2014

As an actual trained artist, May I comment that the reason so few liked the “Teal ” colored art was because of its placement. The piece expressed restlessness and anguish- even constriction- and if the bedroom is supposed to be peaceful- well, the piece is too challenging- it makes one think, and perhaps calls out to us to have compassion- a difficult thing for some of you youngsters because you haven’t been through any “hard stuff”- perhaps. I wonder if her gender unconsciously devalued the piece a bit…after all, women often look at something and say,” Gee, I could do that”- to each other. But rarely do we look at Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass and say, “Gee…”. But most importantly, may I say that THE PIECE STILL EXISTS…underneath the other one… and if you want to know expensive, well- hire a professional restoration artist…and one final perspective from the professional art world: I do not make art to “go with ” your sofa. I make it to engage you. Pretty is as pretty does, but if it doesn’t engage on several levels- its just decoration….and maybe not even that. Some day, when you are feeling NOT Susy home maker, get out the paints again- and express something inside of you that is NOT about anything you find acceptable- something from within you. Finally, I find your sense of design extremely pleasing. A great place for some very important pieces of art to hang, one day.

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09.October.2013

I quite liked the old painting. Especially because it was connected to the history of your house. I dont think it matters, if it was exhibited or not as long as you like it. But since you couldn’t find a place for it, I think it’s okay you did something else with it.

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09.October.2013

Don’t feel bad. Artists paint over their own work all the time. At least I know I do. I have some pieces I did years ago that I’m now thinking I need to paint over. They no longer speak to me, so it’s time to give the canvases new life.

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Ashley
replied on October 9th, 2013

ABSOLUTELY Agree! Historians have xray-ed many famous painters and found layers and layers of other paintings underneath. And it’s not like you covered up something super valuable or an amazing portrait that took days to complete…it was a bad 80’s modern art. And while $95 is expensive for a DIY, its incredibly cheap for a painting that large. So…it’s not like you ruined history. It actually reminded me of Hotel Room Art before….

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replied on October 9th, 2013

Yes, painters are the only ones, by law, who have the right to paint over their own works. THEIR work, no one else’s to destroy. Please, educate yourselves. This is happening too often and it’s a blatant disregard for the law, and more importantly, the rights of the artist.

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replied on October 9th, 2013

I’ve never heard of that law, and I’m an artist.

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replied on October 9th, 2013

I LOVE the new art, but as an artist I agree with Penny. I would’ve given someone else the chance to buy the original and created a new piece from scratch.

replied on October 9th, 2013

yes, it’s sad…most artists, especially visual artists, don’t know what sorts of protections they might have…I’ve seen artists sign away all of their creative property, existing and future, to art publishers, just because they’re so excited to be wanted…not understanding if their art is successful, they’ve given up all ownership of their own creative output. Remember those famous recording artists suing their record labels? It’s because they’d signed contracts allowing the label to take ownership of their entire creative output into perpetuity. Completely wrong. But art is not valued in our society the way other property is, so most artist have no idea that they should protect themselves. And the public isn’t informed either. So whenever I see something like this, I have to speak up. I know the intentions were not bad, believe me, I’ve seen things that I feel the canvas is the most valuable part of the piece, but I am not The God of deciding what is and isn’t art, and neither is anyone else. :)

replied on October 10th, 2013

It’s not the law! What you’re referring to is cultural vandalism, which is not illegal.

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replied on October 10th, 2013

Penny keeps saying there is a law that prohibits anyone other than the artist to paint over or destroy a piece of art, but when repeatedly asked to provide a reference or link to that law, she is not doing that.

As a owner who paid for the art, I have every right to paint over it if I want to. The artist shouldn’t have sold it in the first place if they didn’t want their art to be altered in any way.

In this case, Dana is right to paint over it. It was ugly to begin with.

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replied on October 10th, 2013

The law is called the Visual Artists Rights Act, VARA for short; it was passed in 1990; it’s under Title 17 of the United States Code.

The text of the act is here: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/106A

But if that’s too tedious to read (it was for me), Wikipedia gives a great overview here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_Artists_Rights_Act

Basically, it’s copyright-type legislation designed to recognize and protect the “moral rights” of the artist. No one is allowed to deface or destroy an artist’s work. Regardless of what you think of the original here (not to my taste) or of Dana’s project (very pretty!), what she did was illegal. It doesn’t sound like anyone will be coming after her, though!

09.October.2013

Turned out great!
Though it is sad you painted over the old piece entirely instead of doing a partial paint job of some sort; similar to a geometric tape-painted piece (ala. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/151152131214344746/), or something else that would have given you a modern gold n white pop, while still retaining some of the work you liked well enough to spend $95 dollars on: gallery or not.
But, I get that theres no need to keep something for posterity’s sake if it doesn’t work or float your boat anymore. :)

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09.October.2013

This is a fantastic piece! I can understand why you were apprehensive to paint over someone else’s work, but what you did with it is so great!! I love it :)

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09.October.2013

It looks great, it really does. You’d already invested in it, there’s likely a very limited market for resale, and you have the other piece from the same artist. The gold tones are softly luminescent–do they change with the light? Anyway, a clear win for the room and definitely more on the heavenly side of things.

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09.October.2013

I am all about using what you have, so I think it is great to recycle. It does no good being stored in your attic or basement. And your picture is absolutely beautiful, I want one in my house. Great job!

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09.October.2013

This is hilarious, I did something very similar and I could not believe the upheaval and pearl clutching that went on over me painting over an icky old piece. Mine isn’t nearly as elegant as yours, but it’s fun to know there is someone else out there who thinks like me. See you in hell! haha ;)
http://www.pinterest.com/pin/384565255652159563/

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09.October.2013

It looks great, but i’m really dying to know if your other bathroom is done yet. Being a one pot family for so long would make me nervous. Any updates?

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replied on October 9th, 2013

We’re still a one pot family! Hopefully, we’ll tackle the second bathroom this winter.

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replied on October 10th, 2013

Several months ago, you mentioned you were going to get a video pipe inspection of your home’s plumbing before proceeding with the 2nd bathroom remodel. Has this been done, and do you have any info on what was involved?

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replied on October 12th, 2013

The plumber that did all of our plumbing during renovations came back out to check our lines this summer. We were having problems with the one toilet that is functional. It was clogging easily and frequently and that’s what made us think we should have our lines inspected via a camera. Turns out, when HH hit a plumbing line in the backyard while burying the overhead electric line he used the incorrect part to repair it. HH used a flexible rubber coupler when it should have been a PVC piece. Our plumber replaced the flex joint with PVC and all is well so we don’t think the camera inspection is necessary after all.

09.October.2013

Really? I can’t believe you would paint over someone else’s painting. You could have sold it or donated it!!!! This is disgusting. A new large canvas is not expensive. Watch out for that DIY karma……

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09.October.2013

Argh, not going to hell, because you didn’t know better. But it’s against the law to destroy an artist’s work. I’m an artist as well as a gallery owner and it’s really a shame that just because you didn’t like it, you ruined it for anyone who might, let alone made a decision about a work that no one has the right to change except for the artist of the work. Yes, even if you own it, you’re not entitled to change it, let alone destroy it.

That said, I like your piece, it looks great in the setting, but please, next time, find some other kind of non-original piece to alter, or buy a new canvas, or paint on wood, anything. It’s difficult enough for artists to put their work out there, having that work destroyed against their will is simply not okay.

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replied on October 9th, 2013

Ditto. Love the DIY but I’m at a loss as to why someone else’s work had to be destroyed.

Here’s some more information on the protective laws penny mentioned:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_Artists_Rights_Act

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replied on October 10th, 2013

VARA provides protection only to works produced for public exhibition. Also, applies only while the creator of the work is surviving. Does not apply to art bought at the estate sale of a deceased anonymous artist as it is the case now. Please read the law before assuming it applies universally. The scope of the art work covered under this law is very narrow and limited.

What Dana did is not illegal.

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replied on October 10th, 2013

Not saying it was. I just think it’s a shame. Just supplying a link about laws that were being discussed.

replied on October 9th, 2013

I had no idea what I did might be illegal! Thanks for bringing it to my attention. The artist is deceased and the family sold all of the pieces in her home in the estate sale or donated them. I’m guessing the wooden tray with the hand painted grapevine motif that I picked up at Goodwill years ago and painted white was a big oops too! Eeeek!!

Okay, everyone, learn from my mistakes!

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replied on October 9th, 2013

It’s like you are trying to be witty with that comment but it’s different. A mass produced design is not the same as a huge one-of-a-kind piece of original artwork. I agree with others that a large canvas could be purchased inexpensively and you could have found a different option for the original art. And you keep saying she is deceased and the family didn’t want it, but that’s not what matters! Have some respect for this persons craft. I have always LOVED this blog and I still do, but this is the first time you did something I found tacky, and I don’t mean aesthetically tacky, I mean morally.

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replied on October 10th, 2013

I wasn’t speaking of a mass-produced hand painted tray nor was I meaning to be witty. I’m just trying to think about this controversy in different contexts.

replied on October 10th, 2013

Her own family didn’t want it. No gallery wanted it. We can all safely assume it not great art that needs to be preserved. If she wanted it to be preserved, she would have left instructions with the estate.

replied on October 9th, 2013

Yes, that’s a great attitude. We can all learn from our mistakes. As far as hand painted trays go, that’s a gray area. It would probably be considered craft rather than art and I’m not sure craft is protected. Although would a tray by Rembrandt be craft? Of course, no law is ever completely clear…but I doubt very much if you’d be sued over a crate. Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty. It’s just life and life is nothing if not a gigantic learning opportunity. :)

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replied on October 10th, 2013

Just read the wiki article site above. Caveat: wikipedia is a terrible source to site. That being said, it doesn’t seem like Dana’s violated the law at all.

It guards against the following:
right to claim authorship
right to prevent the use of one’s name on any work the author did not create
right to prevent use of one’s name on any work that has been distorted, mutilated, or modified in a way that would be prejudicial to the author’s honor or reputation
right to prevent distortion, mutilation, or modification that would prejudice the author’s honor or reputation

VARA provides its protection only to paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, still photographic images produced for exhibition only, and existing in single copies or in limited editions of 200 or fewer copies, signed and numbered by the artist. The requirements for protection do not implicate aesthetic taste or value.

First, this law requires that the artist (or their estate in this case?) be opposed to the modification. That hasn’t been established.
Secondly, it seems to me that once she covered the entire piece, the artist was no longer referenced and that the law doesn’t fit that situation.
Thirdly, this piece, despite the fraudulent claim at the time of sale, was not made for exhibition

Dana, get me a ticket as well. I love your modifications. I think, given the false claims made at the time of sale, you took a bold move and made lemons out of your lemonade. I love it!

Robin

reader
replied on October 14th, 2013

It’s not illegal at all. Some of the earlier commentators are wrong. From some sites that deal with rights issues:

“VARA is really a preservation statute. Congress wanted to preserve works of art as enduring parts of our culture; that explains the limitation of the destruction right to works of recognized stature: lesser works can be destroyed without any loss to society. If VARA were truly a moral rights act, the interests of artists in lesser works would have been protected too in this regard. But they weren’t.”

The statute doesn’t apply after the death of the artist, btw.

also:

“VARA gives the artist the right to have his or her name disassociated from the artist’s own work if that work is distorted, mutilated, or modified in a way detrimental to the artist’s reputation or honor. Perhaps, most importantly, VARA also gives the artist the right to prevent (by a court injunction, if necessary) any distortion, mutilation or modification to his or her work. Finally, for “works of recognized stature”, an artist can prevent a work’s destruction, and if the work is intentionally destroyed, an artist can collect damages, including attorney’s fees.”

none of this has anything to do with the piece of art you bought by an unknown artist after his death, at an estate sale. It has to do with the rights of living artists to control what happens to their work, even if the place where it’s hung/installed (say, in the lobby of a building) has other plans for it.

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09.October.2013

If you read the fine print it states: In most instances, the rights granted under VARA persist for the life of the author (or the last surviving author, for creators of joint works). There are other requirements as well for art to fall under this act. So, Dana legally did nothing wrong.

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09.October.2013

I think everyone needs to chill out. Penny, take a hike. We get it. Your pissed.

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replied on October 9th, 2013

No, I’m not “pissed”. People need to know. And VARA is not the only law covering artists’ work. It falls under copyright law. When it’s visual, it applies to the actual physical work.

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replied on October 10th, 2013

Nope, it is not protected by copyright law. It doesn’t even apply here. What Dana did, does NOT violate any law.

Let me give you an example how copyright law does not apply here. I can buy a copyrighted book, tear off pages and use them to decoupage, or I can put the book in recycle bin where the paper pulp is going to be recycled into a paper bag or something. There is no law prohibiting an indidual buyer who buys for private consumption from doing this. Copyright applies to copying the content.

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replied on October 10th, 2013

You are mistaken. Please see the comments above regarding copyright as it applies to the visual arts. The book isn’t protected, the words and ideas are. An artist’s ideas becoming manifest is dependent on the pysical medium. If the canvas is destroyed, so is the idea. That’s not the case with a book. The ideas are can be preserved in their original state regardless of how many books are destroyed. There ARE protections in place for artists all over the world. It’s just not something people are very familiar with or think about very much.

replied on October 10th, 2013

Penny, you have been — repeatedly — wrong about the law here. I get that you are an artist, but you are obviously not an attorney or conversant with the law. Yes, there are a number of laws that protect artists and their works. However, VARA, the federal law to which you seem to refer, would not apply here. And, copyright does not apply here either. Copyright applies to PUBLISHED works. A work of art that exists in only one copy, such as a painting or a statue, is NOT regarded as published. Why don’t you check this out. It is from the federal government and explains U.S. copyright law as it applies to “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works” in plain language: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ40.pdf.

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09.October.2013

I thought it looked great at first. However, all his controversy and your “guess I’m on my way to hell response” spoils it.. It is similar to the mirror in the dining/mud/laundry room; once the silhouette was pointed out, it is all I could see. Moreover, kind of like an attractive person with an unattractive personality.

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09.October.2013

I LOVE this, and I want to copy you! Seriously, I want everything in this room including the art. Also, obsessed with that vintage dresser!!

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I’m considering it an upgrade. It really compliments the room. We can go to art hell together!

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09.October.2013

It’s awesome. I plan to get my bedroom started (we’ve been in the house for over 18 months and it’s still unpainted and has packing box decor [in my defence I got pregnant two weeks before we moved and had hyperemesis and pelvis issues]) and I’m going to start with something similar, love it.

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09.October.2013

Love the new piece!! Beautiful!!

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09.October.2013

Did some one just say DIY karma? Oh this is too much! Dana I bet you are wishing you had just posted about the new painting without mentioning painting over the old, and no one would be the wiser. I have read of many other bloggers painting over or altering a painting (Jenny Komenda, Angela Hardison) and I wonder if they got a lot of grief for it? Sigh. Bloggers beware. ;)

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replied on October 10th, 2013

Maybe it’s because the artist was the previous homeowner in this case? I don’t know. A little background info…the single elderly woman who lived here before us passed away and the extended family sold the house and all items in it. Painting was one of the woman’s hobbies not how she made a living. Either way, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

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10.October.2013

About the other painting – the one on the dresser – I keep seeing it as a stone wall in the landscape position. Sure wish I could get an up close view!
!

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10.October.2013

This post made me very sad. I understand the need to replace the art that you did not like, but how expensive is a blank canvas? I would bet you could have sold the original piece and still not break the bank. The new artwork does seem better fitted for the space, but it could have been done in a better way. If it had been put up without the backstory, I would have appreciated it much more. Now it is like tainted piece that will remind me of the old artwork trying to shine through. Your post title and the way you worded this blog post made me think you are looking for support. Maybe you already realized it, but was crunched for time. I get it. I am just very sad you did not offer the original artwork to readers/neighbors/friends who could have appreciated it.

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I’m finding this discussion fascinating! Should we ‘value’ a work of art only because there are laws to protect it from destruction? What about non-professional visual artists… the graffiti artist who creates a masterpiece on public property… or a child whose prolific works are crumpled and tossed in the garbage? Should we decry the destruction of their work too?

I won’t get into that discussion but I will say I love what you’ve created because now you have something beautiful that speaks to you.

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replied on October 10th, 2013

Thanks Jen! I am also intrigued by this controversial subject. It’s interesting to think about it in different contexts and everyone seems to have their own opinions.

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10.October.2013

I think the art looks awesome. And, to change the subject, :-), I have to tell you that although you are such a fantastic designer, and I love seeing what you do to make your home so beautiful, what I love most about your blog is your writing. I can’t wait for your book to come out! And, I am a writing snob. :-)

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10.October.2013

Hey Dana,

I agree with Joanne,I love your writing too.. and this is the only blog I read through,Most others I just check the photoes and designs. :-)

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10.October.2013

I find it so sad, & ironic, that the only part of the original piece that you admired enough to preserve the “patina” was the wood frame. Really? Wish you’d given the rest of it the same consideration.

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Dana, I love your new artwork, and it fits your home perfectly, but I must admit I cringed the whole way through this post. As a musician I totally understand why these copyright laws are necessary. Unfortunately the arts are not valued in our society like they used to be. While you might not have found value in this piece, someone else might have. Who are we to decide what is art and what is not. Thanks for being an advocate for the arts, Penny! This post has really made me think about what I value in design!

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10.October.2013

Girrrrrl, I do this all the time with ugly art I find at Goodwill. I went to art school and never heard of this being illegal. I was jumping for joy that you changed that art, looks waaaay better! My brother is an auctioneer and sees this stuff come through all the time, about 50% of the time it just gets pitched b/c nobody wants it. At least you repurposed it. AND I love that you still have at least 1 original artwork as a nod to the previous owner. I agree with the person that said you own it, do what you want with it – especially since you had a curator look at it first.

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I love how it turned out! :) Especially the brush strokes in the gold! :)

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10.October.2013

OMG, I was sad and a little miffed at this post. As a painter, I cannot imagine taking such liberties with another artists work especially to paint trendy chevrons on. The new painting is trendy and goes with your house now, but as others have said, wood or new canvas would have worked great and cost less than 95.00 dollars. Btw,the chevron train has left the port so I don’t see you keeping this for long but I guess you can just paint the next trendy geometric pattern on it. Maybe if you were are real painter and broke and needed the canvas for your masterpiece, I could cut you some slack, but this?
I can’t believe just because now you think it doesn’t work for you, you destroy it, instead of selling it to someone who could appreciate it, like you did before ( yes I have been a reader since then and before). Completely baffled by this. I m really starting to dislike blogs, when trendy and cheap and now, complete disrespect is done for blog fodder. How many items are bought then scrapped months later for something else by diy bloggers. It’s a real pity, all of it.
Now I am going to hell, for leaving my first ever negative comment on a blog, but you really pushed a button here, so there we are.

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replied on January 26th, 2014

Just because you don’t like “trendy geometric pattern(s)” doesn’t mean it isn’t art. This thread is so out of hand. It’s posts like these that continue to make it clear that artists can’t put their egos aside for 5 seconds to appreciate that the world is seen through many eyes not just “artist” eyes.

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10.October.2013

Having taken a copyright law class in the past, this thread fascinated me, and all the differing opinions expressed demonstrate the difficulities of copyright law — what is art, does intention matter, etc. No one can sit here and definitively say whether the “new” piece of art violated anything, sounds like a perfect law school exam question, and I am sure there are lots of arguments on both sides — I think the caution to take away from this is that, you should be aware that there is the possibility that when you do this type of thing, you can potentially run afoul of some law — states can set up their own laws if they do not conflict with federal, so even if you think you are abiding by federal law — whoops, your states says something else. So, there is a risk, maybe large, maybe not — and if you make public what you did, you run the risk of someone getting up in arms about it. The internet and social media have really made this a small world. That being said, I loved the project!

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10.October.2013

My problem with this has nothing to with whether it’s illegal or “sinful”; that’s totally beside the point. The problem is that you took a one-of-a-kind work of art that had a sentimental/historical link to your house and that you paid a not-minuscule amount of money for–and you turned it into some generic Pinterest DIY chevron thing that anybody with painters tape could do? Why?! New blank canvases aren’t expensive, and I’ve found a lot of huge ones for $5 or less at secondhand stores. It just seems like a cool work of art didn’t have to die for this, which could have been done on any number of cheap, unsentimental, mass-produced surfaces. It reminds me of the people who paint gorgeous midcentury furniture; maybe rainbow colors are more their style, but they shouldn’t destroy the integrity of rare, beautifully-designed and well-made pieces in order to get it.

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replied on October 11th, 2013

Totally agree. I’d say more, but this poster said it best.

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10.October.2013

This post makes me sad. My dad is an excellent artist and makes an great living from his work. He is well known and I’d be sick if after he died to know that someone painted over what he did. I don’t understand why you couldn’t put it on craigslist or ebay first to sell it to reclaim your money and then buy a canvas at Michaels. Someone would have really appreciated the original work and now nobody can.

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replied on October 10th, 2013

Yes! That’s all I can think too. I don’t make a living at it, but have been offered money on a number of my pieces, but am scared to part with them for some dumb reason. Now I see what I may be scared of. A collective you may hate them, but my time and love went into them, so I would be so sick if someone did this to mine after buying it. I would rather buy it back from them. Now if it was a reproduction poster glued on pressed board or canvas, whatever goes, but not an original. I hope when I die and my family sells my paintings they go to people who will respect them. Maybe I shouldn’t be so attached, there is probably a famous quote about that by some artist. But I paint for me, and therefore actually like them, therefore, am attached.

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