Recently, an exhibit opened at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy” features the former president’s paintings of world leaders. Among many others, there are portraits of Vladimir Putin, Jacques Chirac, and Hamid Karzai. But, as several news outlets pointed out, the oil-on-board paintings seem to be based on images found on the Internet. “It appears as if they are all lazy reproductions of some of the first Google image search results,” Animal New York pointed out.
Now, it’s unclear whether President Bush just Googled the leaders and used the first pictures that popped up. We’ll probably never find out if that’s what really happened. Regardless, the issue made us chuckle a bit. Photo research is what we do every day. Many projects that we work on involve licensing photographs. When the revamped U.S. passport featured new illustrations, it was our job to make sure we tracked down the reference photographs the government artists used to create the fresh artwork. Those kinds of photos must be licensed properly. If not, problems can crop up–sometimes ones you don’t expect.
So if you’re an aspiring artist and in the mood to illustrate a public figure–whether that’s an athlete, movie star, or politician–make sure you know the origin of your reference photograph. If you’d like to sell your painting, just call us. We’re happy to help you through the licensing process–even if you’re not a former president.