Creator Spotlight with Artist JL Cook
This week we’d like to introduce you to Artist JL Cook. You can follow her on Instagram @jlcook_3d.
What was the inspiration behind becoming a creator? What do you enjoy most about the creative process?
I have always had a drive to create, it feels as natural as breathing or laughing; for me, creating Art is an extension of learning and growth. I most enjoy the challenges of creating scientifically accurate wildlife sculpture, each piece is a new opportunity to learn about and explore the animals that inspire me and hopefully show others the beauty that I see.
Can you take us through your creative process? How long does it take? Does everything you produce make money?
I try to observe each animal, how it acts and moves, and what makes it special. I take photos and videos and will often do quick maquettes to capture forms and gesture. Once the size, anatomy, pose and forms are captured in clay, I will mold and cast that version and move on to a firmer medium like resin or wax to finalize the surface details, always asking biologists and researchers for verification and corrections. It can take several weeks to months for each phase of the sculpting process and several more months to transform the finished sculpture into limited edition resins or foundry cast bronzes. The foundry process is quite costly; there are many stages and many skilled artisans involved in taking a finished sculpture to the final level of Fine Art Bronze, so many times I have to be content with “breaking even” and having amazing Art instead of “making money.”
What do you think is the biggest misconception about your line of work?
The biggest misconception about my line of work is that it is “easy for me,” or talent. I work very hard to both see and sculpt the best that I possibly can. What looks effortless in the final Artwork is truly a lifetime of trial and failure, but it is also always learning and actively striving to improve.
When did you first become aware of copyright, and why?
My first real awareness of copyright was after a cursory class in Art School. That class information was expanded greatly once I began working as a commercial artist and dealing with companies and licensed characters. Many of the products I created were “works for hire” and were not my intellectual property. Proper care had to be maintained and my work depended upon my integrity.
Have you experienced copyright infringement and, if so, how has it affected you personally and financially?
I have experienced mass copyright infringement. My website was “scraped” in 2021 and many of my photographs of my sculptures were stolen, the watermarks removed from the photos and then those photos were used to populate hundreds of fraudulent websites and social media ads and pages. When the fake pages, ads and website “listings” proved popular, several cheap counterfeits of my works were created, BUT the fakes were sold and marketed using my actual photos. When the scam sites disappeared, the angry duped buyers found my real website and thought that I was the one who scammed them, not realizing that I had been stolen from as well. Personally, I felt incredibly violated; in many ways, my work IS my identity. As an Artist, my work IS my brand and MY reputation. I had to spend many hours every day searching, reporting and trying to stop all the infringements, at the same time dealing with angry buyers who got ugly, awful copies. Creating had to take a back seat to fighting and I have spent thousands of dollars on lawyers and website protection.
What do you do when you encounter someone stealing something you’ve invested your intellect, time and money into?
I fight. I report it and do my best to get it taken down and enforce my rights as the Artist. When I see another Artist’s work stolen, I contact that Artist immediately and try to navigate them through the steps to protect their work and remove the infringements. I also try to educate others who may not understand that Artists have rights to their work and may believe that art is “free to use.” Using another person’s creation with our permission is NOT flattery, it is theft.
What is the best piece of advice that you would give other creators in your field about copyright and how to protect themselves?
REGISTER your work with the US Copyright office! Monitor the internet regularly and report infringements. Unfortunately, the internet has fostered a free-for-all mentality that is quickly destroying authorship due to lack of legal enforcement or outright negligence. The common assumption, though incorrect, is that anything found on the internet is “free-to use” or “fair use.” Advocate for yourself and other creators, and don’t let artistic theft go unchallenged.
What is your biggest copyright-related challenge?
My biggest copyright related challenge is the ease of copyright infringement created by the vast, global landscape of the internet, especially social media. International law is not uniform, despite the Berne Convention and similar treaties, and it is difficult to enforce and maintain copyright and authorship across boundaries. The largest internet platforms do very little to honor the existing laws and have not been held accountable for the rampant theft and copyright abuse they allow or encourage.
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