I'm going to talk a bit about DESIGN versus STYLE. (....again)
If Design is the structure, style is the manner of presenting it.
I recently blogged about a sensitive issue (here). Someone had been copying my designs for years and profiting from them - by gaining fame and recognition across TV shows as the creator of these characters, by selling them as figurines and by teaching others how to sculpt them in workshops at her gallery. I found out about it and with some difficulty the issue was resolved and she will no longer do this.
My story about this issue was shared thousands of time on the web and I was comforted by friendly comments but also taken aback by less friendly voices.
Here I address the unfriendly comments. I'm not doing it to vent, but because I honestly think it will be helpful to other artists who might have some of the same questions.
1 "She's allowed to copy your work - it's just fan art..."
Artists may recreate the designs of other artists (someone else's IP - "intellectual Property") as a learning technique / for their own pleasure etc. If that artist then sells that work or profits from it monetarily, then it is no longer 'fan art' and becomes a case of legal copyright infringement. It doesn't matter if the artist is copying me (a small fish) or a huge studio like Disney or Marvel. If you create Disney themed artwork / sculptures / creations and then sell them on Etsy for example, you have broken copyright and are liable to be sued. What you should have done is sought the right to create and sell your artwork based on Disney's IP and paid the licensing fee. Many official companies make Disney or Marvel or Warner Bros. consumer products but they all pay a LICENSING FEE to the owner of the IP.
This is the only correct way to do it.
Here are different artists making my Elga design without permission. I had to ask all of them to stop doing it - which they did.
2 "Looks inspired by your work, but not the same style. You should leave her alone."
Inspiration is fine. Imitation is not. I created a world of witches and each carefully thought-out design is solidly part of my world and my IP. Recreating my design in a different style is still copyright infringement and harms me. To illustrate my point I made my character Elga as a Funko Pop toy. Funko Pop toys take the design of a famous pop culture character and redo it in their cute style.
When other artists take Elga and remake her, it's still recognizable as my design, my character.
This actually does hurt my brand and damage my chances of success with this project 'Good Witches Bad Witches ™' before it has had the chance to flourish.
Look at this wonderful Disney design for the character Maui in Moana. And here he is as a Funko toy. You can tell that it's him because even though the style is so different - the design is the same.
Refer to previous answer! When the design is so clearly the same, it's a copied design. There's simply no way that she coincidentally came up with the idea to make a grumpy, one-eyed old hag with a floppy wide-brimmed green witch's hat with a brown hen on top, and wearing a purple/grey dress, green plaid (tartan) shawl, over layers of dotty and stripy skirts.. oh, and also carrying a cauldron / basket.
I find the suggestion that it was a coincidence laughable.
4 "You just copy Tim Burton anyway."
Well no, I do not copy Tim Burton! I love Tim Burton's style and his body of work. He's one of many inspirations, along with Arthur Rackham, Edward Gorey, Gustav Klimt, Norman Rockwell, PJ Lynch and Jim Henson. I certainly love to create my 'bad' witches in a dark fairy-tale Brother's Grimm sort of way and like a lot of illustrators I love stripes. I think there are certainly themes I share with Tim Burton. However, I don't create in his style and my designs are extremely different. Take a look at his illustration (designs) of witches and my illustration of my Hortense witch below.
I do understand the need to compare my work to Tim Burton or to Laika - the main reason being my work has the same stop-motion animation look. Below you can see Tim Burton's witch figurines and my Hortense witch figurine. Perhaps Hortense could walk into a Tim Burton film and not look super out of place, but clearly the facial structure and design, and really the whole design and style is different and my own. :)
Finally, I leave you with some artwork by illustrators Arthur Rackham and Edward Gorey who are an influence / inspiration to me.
*Credit to artist Andrew Tarusov for creating the Disney characters artwork in Tim Burton's style.