What, Exactly, Makes a Knockoff?

I came across a few of my older paintings in my studio today as I unwrapped works from storage to hang in the upper reaches of my studio space.

Several, in particular made me remember the two times in my 5-year art career that I’ve heard someone utter a disparaging remark about my art being “Rothko knockoffs”.  So, I’m wondering (and asking you, dear reader): “What, exactly, is a knockoff”?

I should mention that Mark Rothko is one of my most favorite artists.  And yes, my art has been influenced by him.  I should also mention that the paintings in question are not of my “elementals” or “fossils” series that surely couldn’t be accused of being a “Rothko knockoff”.

So, I dug up some examples to see what you think – are these “knockoffs”?  Or are the just “inspired by”?  Are they something else?  What would make these a knockoff (style, composition, color)?  Why do I care?  Would anyone else care?  So many questions!  I might have to do some research into this… in the meantime, I sure welcome comments and thoughts!

Alexander Julian, watercolor on paper, collection of the artist.
Alexander Julian, watercolor on paper, collection of the artist.
Firmament Study No. 2, watercolor on paper, private collection.
Firmament Study No. 2, watercolor on paper, private collection.
Summit, watercolor on paper, private collection.
Summit, watercolor on paper, private collection.

6 thoughts on “What, Exactly, Makes a Knockoff?

  1. Cynthia December 3, 2008 / 6:14 am

    I think what’s even more interesting is how much your art has grown and changed over the last 5 years. I liked your art at the beginning and like it even more as it’s evolved and become more complex. So fun to see the changes!

  2. Daniel Sroka December 3, 2008 / 7:18 am

    Those folks are just showing their ignorance. We are all influenced and guided by our artistic ancestors, and anyone who doesn’t realize this is just naive about art.

  3. Lisa Call December 3, 2008 / 4:41 pm

    I don’t worry about such things. But love the last piece – gorgeous! Love your new work more. It’s always fun to see how someone’s art has evolved over the year.

  4. Deb Place December 5, 2008 / 1:18 pm

    First of all, it’s a great honor to find you work identified so perfectly with Rothko. Secondly, color field work is very individual, and unique it requires only an openness of enjoyment.

    I find your color work very peaceful and soothing. Rothko had a much different voice in his color.

    keep up the great work,

  5. JTART December 9, 2008 / 9:41 am

    I think that “knockoffs” are purposeful copies of another artists’ work. Clearly yours are not! I love these and agree that it is a compliment that this series is identified as being influenced to a degree by Rothko!

  6. Kim Hambric December 11, 2008 / 8:56 am

    Good Heavens. And I guess we can also say that if someone has written a book, then anyone else who prints text on paper, then binds the paper into a book format has created a knockoff. If the art has been created from your experiences and your emotions, and has come from somewhere inside of you, then how can it be a knockoff? Unless you have eaten Rothko himself for lunch.

    Excuse me, I need to go and reinvent the wheel.

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