Flip Flop Flying

3,307: My Minipops

with 33 comments

A few weeks ago I got an email, someone was kind enough to give me a heads up that there was someone out there doing embroidery work that looks a lot like my Minipops. And that this someone had their work featured in the T magazine section of the New York Times. I clicked. And this is what I found.

Hmmm.

I had a look around the Internet and found the below images on another article, where my influence is mentioned. Seems like someone thought they could copy my Minipops, and then when she had exhausted that resource, continue to copy my style. My Minipops in the left column, her work on the right.

So I emailed her. In her reply she acknowledged my influence, told me that she mentioned my influence to the Times, and that I am mentioned on her Web site (which I’ve had a good long look at, and can’t find that mention*), but went on to say that she comes “from the school of thinking that “art cannot be created or destroyed, only remixed.”” Which is convenient, isn’t it? Very convenient that your school of thinking allows you to piggyback off my idea, my work, my hours and hours and thousands of hours to get yourself a sugary write-up in the New York bloody Times and exhibitions in New York.

(* update 29 April: She added the press release that mentions my influence to her Web site at some point in the last day. Here’s a screenshot of her site from a couple of weeks ago, and another from this morning)

I wrote an email to the public editor of the NY Times. Someone else had also done that. They addressed the issue. Saving you a click, here’s what they wrote:

I realise I am biased in this matter, but the reasoning there is weak as fuck. The writer finds her art “charming” and she is “gaining momentum and attention.” Those are not good reasons. Well, they are, but they’re bad good reasons. It also seems like the artist, having told me she mentioned my influence, didn’t do that.

The New York gallery showing her work put a post about the NY Times piece on their Instagram. After someone else left a comment about this issue, they described my work as “her inspiration spring board.” I replied:

I had a look the next day to see if there were any other comments, but the post on their Instagram had been deleted. Interesting…

(I should note that I did some mental calculations after writing that comment: tens of thousands of hours is probably a bit of an exaggeration. I regret not doing those calculations before writing the comment. Ten thousand hours is probably about right, but not “tens.”)

The artist herself has turned off the comments section on any of her Instagram posts, too, that had comments left by other people about this particular topic.

Since then, I received an unsolicited second email from the artist. She is “aware of a vehement negative reaction to the piece that the NYT T/style magazine has just run about me,” and that it “must stem from a misunderstanding.”

Oh good, well at least it was only a misunderstanding, eh? And, apparently, “[i]f anything, it is an homage to your work.” She goes on to tell me other 8-bit imagery like “Nintendo, Atari” have also had an influence, which seems weird considering they all look like my drawings not like “Nintendo, Atari” stuff. In her more recent work she often puts characters next to each other and in the email seems to feel like this means she is doing something different.

There’s a lot more waffling on, self-justification. Y’know, I can understand this. It must be a pebble in the shoe of happiness to have this issue come up at this moment in your career. Doing some mental gymnastics to free yourself of guilt is what lots of us do at various points in our lives.

She finished her email like so:

“Never have I thought that what I was doing (beyond my first exploratory quilt) was anywhere near copying you. If, beyond this misunderstanding over images of this quilt, you still feel that I have copied you, such feelings are unmerited and unfortunate.”

So there we go, it was all a misunderstanding. It’s not an apology, so it can’t be considered a non-apology apology. But it’s along those lines, innit? Me feeling angry and annoyed by this person’s work is “unmerited and unfortunate.” Aw, well, if that’s how you feel, I’ll just stop, right? That’s not how this works.

So, yes, here we are. A heads up for you that this exists and I’m not cool with it. I feel like this person has created a career for herself off the back of my work. She may no longer be actively copying my work, but she’s still ripping the style, and would never have got to that place had it not been for copying my work in the first place. It feels wrong. I’m not happy about it. And I wanna be that pebble in her shoe. Minipops, these tiny pixelly versions of famous people, are mine. I’m proud of them and the many hours I put into them.

And for meta commentary, here’s a pixel drawing of an embroidered version of a pixel self portrait.

The song in my head when I woke up this morning
Best Song Ever by One Direction

On this day
Old drawings, 28 April 2011

Here’s an interesting Wikipedia article
Structural coloration

Self-promotion
Flip Flop Flyin’ Flip Flop Fly Ball
Behance Feedly Instagram Society6 Tumblr Twitter (@flipflopflying) Twitter (@manypencils)

Written by Craig

April 28th, 2017 at 3:02 am

Posted in Blah blah,Minipops

33 Responses to '3,307: My Minipops'

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  1. Keep fighting the fight. That’s your WORK and ART she is copying. If she wants to quilt mini-pops of her own design and show in a gallery, that’s fine. But not exact, duplicate recreations. There’s no thought process on her side. “Craig, please determine the right color combinations and placings of the pixels, thank you, now I’ll do the actual hard work of quilting it.”
    Absurd!

    Keith Cramer

    28 Apr 17 at 07:30

  2. Sorry to hear about this Craig. Has anyone showed the ‘artist’ or the editor your side by side comparisons. There is influence and then there is exact copies using a different medium. Shameful.

    Cory S.

    28 Apr 17 at 07:59

  3. I did indeed show the public editor of the NYT the side-by-side image. Didn’t seem to have much effect, I guess.

    Craig

    28 Apr 17 at 08:02

  4. From the Times puff piece:

    “It’s very physical,” she says of stitching, “but it brings total stillness to your mind, because you don’t have to think about anything, really.”

    Yeah, no need to think about anything when someone else has already done the work for you. Unreal.

    Andrew

    28 Apr 17 at 10:41

  5. The response from the Times is infuriating to read. All of this is. I’m mad online.

    Devin

    28 Apr 17 at 10:59

  6. Absolutely shameful. This is outright stealing – you should be getting a royalty! The side-by-side comparisons are the most damning – a complete ripoff. No other way to look at it! How can she get away with this? And why does the NYT not give a shit??? Unbelievable.

    Bemmons

    28 Apr 17 at 11:19

  7. Sue her ass!!

    At least send her a cease & desist! What a freeloading bitch!

    Deedee

    28 Apr 17 at 11:39

  8. This is infuriating. Perhaps you should ask her husband, Will Oldham, if it would be okay for you to re-record one of his albums, slap a different name on it, and release it under your own name as your own work. Apparently his wife would be okay with it!

    Jack

    28 Apr 17 at 11:54

  9. This is infuriating and I hope you keep talking about this.

    She *blatantly* ripped you off, but now blamed you for not letting it go.

    I don’t even know you and I am HEATED.

    Frups

    28 Apr 17 at 12:30

  10. I think you should seriously consider legal action. Seem like you’re being flagrantly ripped off.

    Joe FF

    28 Apr 17 at 12:40

  11. Maybe she couldn’t understand the issue because you were mansplaining it to her? Be better next time, Craig.

    David

    28 Apr 17 at 13:35

  12. That is horseshit. What arrogance on her part. I’m a playwright in NYC and I teach playwriting at the collegiate level here, and when I preach “stealing” other artists’ work, I of course mean to take an idea they may have had and rearrange it into wholly their own work — THAT — is an homage. What she’s doing, by contrast, is directly copying someone else’s work and profiting/benefitting from it. That is theft, from where I sit.

    Paul

    28 Apr 17 at 13:41

  13. Minju Pak should be ashamed of that very superficial story. The “artist” is a flagrant thief with little creativity of her own.

    MarinaZ

    28 Apr 17 at 13:53

  14. Sorry to read this Craig. Her email to you saying that your feelings are unmerited is ridiculous. You have a right to be upset about this.

    Dan Ulrich

    28 Apr 17 at 14:29

  15. This feels like the logic of an art tracer. But because yours is in the digital medium she feels like that must mean you put in 0 effort to design the characters. It’s really, really sad that a journalist can’t recognize how shady that is given the side-by-sides.

    Mitchell Roush

    28 Apr 17 at 14:47

  16. This plain sucks, but I have two (low and high) reactions:
    Low: Well it’s time you pick up quilting, or hire someone to do it for you, and beat them to the punch. Copyright your new work, then you you have grounds for legal action if this hack copies your stitched Minipops.
    High: continue to do your work, continue your fight, and patiently wait for this wrong to be righted.
    Both are not easy, doing nothing is not the answer, but worrying doesn’t help either. Try to find your peace and continue to be your creative self.

    Aldo

    28 Apr 17 at 14:55

  17. she can always fall back on her career playing jaw harp: http://www.spin.com/2017/04/bonnie-prince-billy-louisville-tv-news-merle-haggard/

    Nolan R Wells

    28 Apr 17 at 15:34

  18. Not seeing much difference between “I’ll make an 8-bit version of someone else’s art” and “I’ll make an embroidery pattern of someone else’s art”.

    Please tell me you didn’t really spend ten thousand hours to come up with “hey, I’ll make an 8-bit version of an already famous image.”

    Doc Vermin

    28 Apr 17 at 15:59

  19. What an disappointing and dismissive response on the part of the Times. They should be expert and eagle-eyed about intellectual property infringement and plagiarism.

    Elaine

    28 Apr 17 at 16:05

  20. This is ridiculous, Craig. Her work is not only similar to yours – it’s EXACTLY THE SAME. We punish people who plagiarize, why would we act any differently in this situation? Keep fighting to protect your work, your integrity and your art.

    Myles Dolphin

    28 Apr 17 at 17:31

  21. I would be absolutely furious! I can’t understand how Elsa Hansen Oldham is getting away with plagiarizing another’s work? Do you have a patent on your design? That would be a way to protect yourself in future. Shame shame Oldham.
    Check with a lawyer & claim a form of compensation.

    Rose M Gagnon

    28 Apr 17 at 18:05

  22. Can’t tell if David is being sarcastic about the mansplaining, but if you were being serious, get a life. It’s a blatant rip-off on her part and mansplaining is a phenomenon that, while very real, has nothing to do with the response from Craig.

    Laura

    28 Apr 17 at 20:03

  23. Surely your work is protected by intellectual property and copyright law. You need to take legal action and get her to desist from using the images that are clearly directly copied, and make reparations, and also pay royalties on any sales from the gallery . I think any reasonable person would agree that you have been ripped off.

    Collette Snowden

    29 Apr 17 at 01:10

  24. You’re just jealous that she got some recognition and you didn’t. You should be happy that you inspired a fellow artist.

    And to be honest, your work isn’t that original to begin with. There’s plenty of pixel artists about, creating a similar aesthetic.

    Bob O'Connor

    29 Apr 17 at 01:17

  25. Seems like she would need a licensing agreement to use your work in that way. Even if this was an amateur effort that blew up unexpectedly, the Times should have known that. You have a legal case, I bet, and some back fees with penalties to claim.

    Stacey Sims

    29 Apr 17 at 08:20

  26. This is probably the first time in her life that’s anyone’s called her out, for anything. “I’m an attractive 30-year-old woman. Why should the rules apply to me?”

    Thanks for the endlessly entertaining work. Unfortunately, her impunity won’t go away on its own.

    Greg McFarlane

    29 Apr 17 at 13:08

  27. She copied you.

    And the NYTimes covered it up for their feel good story which helps their narrative.

    The NYTimes: ‘All the news that fits the propaganda narrative’

    cecilhenry

    29 Apr 17 at 14:57

  28. I KNOW A LAWYER IF YOU WANT TO GO AFTER HER (AND YOU SHOULD)

    DIANAGRAM

    29 Apr 17 at 18:51

  29. Man, I’m appalled at how terrible that NTY response is. “There’s some similarities, but she didn’t mention your name and a quick look around shows that there’s other people doing pixel art too” is laughably weak. The artist’s own language makes her argument fall apart; “remixing” and “homage” is all well and good, but you have to mention the originals when you’re talking about your remixes! This feels like a combination of shoddy reporting by the NYT and a desire not to share the limelight on her part.

    The final really depressing part of all this is as the wife of a critically acclaimed musician, she’s obviously got a more than a little bit of cultural cachet. I hope she’s aware of how her connections got her embroidery into the NYT and erased the artist she copied, but I’ve learned not to expect much in these cases, even if the artist is making Nat Turner and Rodney King designs.

    Hal

    1 May 17 at 02:39

  30. David, feel free to mansplain to me how you think I was doing that, cos I’m not seeing it.

    Craig

    3 May 17 at 03:22

  31. Bob: *eyeroll*

    Craig

    3 May 17 at 03:24

  32. Thanks for the comments, everyone. Much appreciated.

    Craig

    3 May 17 at 03:25

  33. Wow. This is just awful. Really sorry this idiot is getting praise for this blatant copying. She probably traced others art as a kid and took credit too.

    Philip

    2 Jun 17 at 16:17

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