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Tammy,

If there is not an agreement on ownership in the contract, the art is the property of the artist. This is separate from reproduction rights for your book, which are hopefully properly addressed in the contract with the publisher. 

Do you know that the original final art for the book is a physical object? A lot of commercial work these days starts as pencil and paper, but quickly moves into the computer for ease of correction or completion. So there may not be a image for you to buy, other than some reproduction prints. If that is all you want, you might get that at a reasonable cost, it the files are available.

Since you are the one who is driving the car on your book project as the author, you might want to see if it would be possible to get all the art, so it would be available for future editions of the work. At the very least it would be comforting to have a set of the digital files, if those were the final products, just as backup. You would still need to follow the contract on publishing and sales issues, but the fact that you are having a hard time getting information and the publisher is small, could mean at some point in the near future there may be no access at all to the materials.  After an artist dies, there is a pretty decent chance that the original art that has no real meaning to their kin, if they have kin, will end up in the trash. Or the inheritors may hold the art as a sacred reminder of the person and never want to part with it, you just don't know.

The original art can possibly be purchased from the inheritor of the artist's property/work, and potentially you could also do a buyout of the reproduction rights as well (but check with the publisher's contract to see what they "own" and for how long they own it.) I want to wish you luck in making contact with them.

Britt


On Jun 26, 2018, at 7:28 AM, Tammy Cloutier <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
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Hello all!

I am not a natural science illustrator (although I hope to collaborate with one for my PhD work), but am hoping for feedback from this professional community. I think I may have seen previous posts that relate to my question, so searched the archives, but didn't see the answer. However, my apologies if I overlooked it!

My question...I wrote a children's book that relates to my PhD work, which was published last year, and worked with a local illustrator in Maine. I paid the illustrator for his work, but he unfortunately passed away shortly before the book was published.

I am interested in obtaining at least 1 or 2 of the original illustrations, but have not received a response from his surviving partner or the small publisher I used. As illustrators, can you please tell me if you would own the rights to these illustrations, or would I have access to them since I commissioned them for my own project?

Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

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