what is and is not okay.

Mar 22, 2009 | Entrepreneurship, Life in Progress

Please know that this post comes from a place of sensitivity and tenderness. In the big scheme of my life, none of this really matters, but  I think it may be time to clarify exactly how I feel and what’s okay and what’s not okay.


It’s just not okay:

-To use one of my images as your profile photo on facebook/myspace/blogger or any other website without an artist credit. This violates copyright law.

-To make copies of instructions I’ve given in my book, articles, or in class, and publish them to your blogs and websites. it’s also not okay to reword my instructions and use them for a class you are teaching for profit, or to submit them to magazines for publication.

-To publish videos or photos on your blogs and websites showing my book/class instructions/painting process step by step.

-To teach projects from my book via video, articles, books, blogs, and online classes without my direct permission. Absolutely not. It IS okay to teach projects from the book to creative circles, non-profit organizations, school classes – I just ask that it’s not for profit.

-To replicate my paintings + designs and then sell (or submit for publication) your version/copy of my work. I have been amazed at what I’ve seen out there – exact color schemes, sentiments/words, backgrounds, body poses, faces. please don’t copy. whenever I see artwork for sale that looks way too similar to one of my images, my heart sinks with major disappointment. That is the honest, messy truth. more on this below – my issue is with selling/publishing only.

-To copy my words from my website/blog and post them to your websites/blog. that’s called plagiarism.


It is okay:

-To be inspired. to experiment. To learn techniques and then to make them your own. The techniques shared in my book/articles/classes are meant to be a jumping off point for you so that you can keep going, expand, grow – totally okay, and celebrated! I don’t claim to take ownership of ANY techniques. I just ask that you not use the techniques shared in my books/classes/etc to create works that look strikingly similar to mine and then to start selling those works that are near replicas.

-To copy my work as you try and find your style. totally okay and expected. But it’s not okay to sell your version (copy) of my work if they look exactly or very similar to my paintings (colors, hair, positioning, background). If you aren’t sure if yours is different enough from my style, then it probably isn’t. Listen to you whispers on this one before you sell. More on this below.

– To use the projects/techniques from my book/articles/classes as a starting point to get your creative spirit thinking, breathing, rejoicing. keep going. Put your own spin on it. I promise your creative voice and style will eventually come thru. And when it does, release your paintings out into the world (selling, gifting, whatever you choose) so that you can make room in your heart spaces for more paintings, more growth. I love seeing how people adapt and manipulate and expand what they have learned from my book/articles/classes and successfully integrate it into their own styles.
– To post photos of your book projects on your blogs, etc, but please give credit to my book
to send me an email asking if you can use one of my images for any reason.
-To grab images from my website for a blog post, but you must give credit.


In the interest of being as specific as possible, here are my answers to the questions and concerns that have been coming my way for awhile (and yes, these are actual and real questions + statements I’ve received in my inbox):

Question: I have been in dilemma over some of the things I made (some of my best work ever… if I do say so) after reading your articles in Cloth Paper Scissors and your projects in your book. I normally sell my work at shows and soon on etsy when I retire next month. My dilemma is, that even though on the back of a few of my angels I wrote that they were inspired by Kelly Rae Roberts I still don’t feel right about selling them. Please let me know what you think if you have a moment.

Answer: Here’s what I think: if you have an inner whisper that cautions you against it, you should follow your gut. The whole point of the book and the articles and classes are to inspire people to learn new things, to evolve in their creativity, to keep going. It was never the point, or my intention, to have others replicate my work then turn around and fill their online shops with these near exact replicas or teach my process.

Whenever I take a project-based workshop from an artist or buy their how-to books for that matter, I never sell those works. why? Because it was simply an exercise to get my creative juices flowing. I saw something in their work that called to me. I wanted to learn more. I wanted to satiate that need. I wanted to create something out of my box. It would be wrong of me to profit from their instructions from a specific project (jewelry, painting, or otherwise). sure, I can incorporate their techniques into my work and make it my own, but specific projects from someone else’s class, articles, or books are off limits to my etsy shop unless it’s a project/painting/piece that clearly integrates their techniques along with my own and clearly + mostly represents MY style and not theirs.

I would encourage you to consider not selling any projects or paintings that were created by following my instructions as outlined in the book or in the articles unless it clearly deviates from my style. It’s one thing to be inspired and to use the techniques in your work, but it’s another to copy and then to sell/publish. Your heart knows the difference. Listen to it.

Question: Why does it bother you? You already make a good living and you’re already established as an artist. Who cares if there are a few copycats out there selling work that looks like yours?

Answer: My entire livelihood is dependent on making a living from my work. Not just selling originals and prints, but also very important licensing deals for stationery, wall art, and gift items. To me, it’s about artistic integrity + professional credibility. For example, if art directors are scanning blog world and etsy for potential talent for licensing contracts (and trust me, they do!), and they come across several patchwork collaged angels – all with very similar patchworked backgrounds, bodies and hairdo-s – then they’ll inevitably wonder who the originator was of this particular ‘look.’ in some cases, the licensing deal may go to an individual who really has no claim to that ‘look’ – they were just simply following directions from a nameless/faceless person (me) who wrote instructions in a book/magazine, loved it so much, and filled their etsy shop with these creations. To me, this is unfortunate and unfair. And I consider it stealing, even if the intention of that artist was never to mislead, or copy. As a professional artist, my credibility is weakened with each and every copycat out there – it’s my actual livelihood and career being jeopardized.

You should have thought about all of this when you decided to publish your techniques…you asked for it.

I don’t think I should have to pay a price for loving what I do and for encouraging the creative souls of the world to go for it – to claim that inner voice and create art. I deeply believe in the power of creative possibility. I never gave anyone permission to recreate my paintings and then make a profit from it in their online shops or otherwise.

Can I post photos/scans of the work I’ve made from your book/articles on my blog?

Yes, of course! Put them on your blogs, on your social networking sites. Give them away as gifts. I just ask that you give credit where it’s appropriate. And yes, even SELL these works – just please make sure they aren’t near replicas of my work.

I’d like for people to see all the different steps of my painting that I made from your book. do you mind if I show step by step photos of my painting in progress on my blog?

I would prefer that you not do this. It’s not okay to take a published project with published directions and republish the steps on your blog, even if it’s your painting. Feel free to refer them to my book for specific instructions.

Can I make copies of the instructions you gave in class and publish them on my blog, or rewrite them and teach a local class with my version of your instructions?

Absolutely not. It’s wrong and unprofessional. Please do not copy the instructions from my book or articles, reword them, and distribute them as your own. Also, please do not create online videos of what you’ve learned from me and claim them as your own.


I hope that help clear things up. I know that most people who have crossed the line have done so without intention. And most didn’t mean any harm whatsoever. But I also think it’s important that we all continue to be good stewards of the creative life and continue to gently educate on what’s appropriate and what’s not, especially because breaking copyright law is very serious business (esp work that is licensed, published, etc) and something not to tangle with.

Kelly Rae

Sending much love,

Show/Hide Comments (9 comments)
  1. Monica LeSage-Roeper

    Along these lines, I have a question about using your images (with clear credit to you) if I write a post on social media about something related to my coaching. I am not an artist, and have never tried your style of art, though I have been a fan. The words and colors and images you choose speak beautiful messages of healing and inspiration and hope, and are so congruent with what I hope to guide people to embrace in my coaching work. What are your thoughts about using your images (including a link to purchase your work and follow your work) in combination with my words or messages? I love the work you and Brene Brown have been doing (I’ve been following you two for at least a decade now) and want to honor your work, not copy it in any way or detract from income you deserve.

  2. Lilla Taylor

    Hi Kelly Rae,

    This blogpost has been so incredibly fulfilling. I am a start up and being copied or duplicated has been so incredibly frustrating to me. I have contemplated writing a social media post for so long but I felt that it would cut me wide open and leave room for others to pour salt in my wound. Thank you for sharing as it feels good that I am not alone.

    • Kelly Rae Roberts

      Hi Lilla,
      I’m so glad you found some comfort here. You are not alone in navigating these tricy waters!

  3. Laurie G

    Thanks for the gentle spanking! Copyright violation is something I am usually conscientious of, but I had copied an image from a very lovely whimsical calendar and used it for my Google photo. I just switched it to an actual photo of myself.. haha, imagine that.

  4. Adele Shaw

    Hi Kelly Rae,
    A while back I was taken by your list of do’s and don’ts … both out of bad form and experience. Thanks for posting this. As I’m getting a new website off the ground it’s good to revisit my own “terms”. Hope you don’t mind if I’m inspired by this post!!!! Sometimes people are so darn crazy. Thanks again, Adele

  5. Poker Online

    I do not even know the way I ended up here, however I believed this submit
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  6. Cheryl

    Very helpful advice. Thank you for the perspective.

  7. Bobbie Wiley

    Thank you for this. It captures and expresses something I’ve been struggling with in a group. I’d like to re-post this entire. However, I believe that a copy and paste doesn’t serve my personal integrity or meet the values you write about here. I think a link to this will meet the standard. Thank you again, Bobbie Wiley

    • Kelly Rae Roberts

      Thank you! A link will work just perfectly ๐Ÿ™‚



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Iโ€™m Kelly Rae Roberts

Before I picked up my first paintbrush at the age of 30, I was a medical social worker. I followed my creative whispers, and today Iโ€™m an artist & Possibilitarian. Iโ€™m passionate about creating meaningful art and experiences that awaken and inspire our spirits.

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