"Chasing the Pearl" Assemblage 2004 ©Barbe Saint John/Saints and Sinners
In Chinese art you will often see a large ornate dragon chasing a flaming pearl. The dragon is a wise and benevolent creature and the pearl he is chasing is the Pearl of Potentiality or Wisdom. By chasing the pearl, the dragon is continually in the pursuit of wisdom.
My post yesterday about how to deal with people who want your artwork and ideas for free, sparked a lot of conversation. I have gotten a number of comments and emails regarding it. Many people are worried that their art is being blatantly copied. Even more people were worried about crossing the line between being inspired and copying someone else. No one wants to be called a copy cat.
First off, fear not we are all inspired by everything we see, do, touch, smell, or read in some way. It may be tiny and subconscious or it may be a EUREKA moment. Either way, the way you are inspired is unique to you and your experience. Like I said yesterday there is only one YOU so how you see and experience everything is just as unique. It's how you take all those inspirations and combine them with your own creativity that make a piece of art your own. There's a quote "good artists copy, great artists steal". I take that to mean, the great artist takes the inspiration and transforms it so much that it becomes bigger, better and completely their OWN style.
Direct copying (a less negative term than stealing) is a different story. That is when someone sees something and deliberately intends to make the same item and claim it as your own. Last year, a number of beadmakers were horrified to realize their work had been copycatted by a large craft supplier. While the copycat beads were less then stellar in quality, they still sold because they were less expensive then the originals. That took money out of each and every one of those beadmakers pockets, which aren't large to begin with. The big corporation has its own staff of product designers and could have created unique beads that year as they have done in the past. But they didn't, they chose to steal someone elses ideas, product and ultimately $$$ from artists. That is just wrong.
Yesterday's post referred to an actual item produced and about people taking a class then calling it their own. In that case, the intention was to copy, not be inspired by and in my book that is wrong. I believe in sharing my crafty know-how with others because I want everyone to realize their own creative potential and have faith in it. Art making is learned by sharing AND copying techniques and concepts. Eventually though you will (or should!) have the confidence to combine your skills with your inspirations and create in your own style. So don't worry about looking at magazines, blogs and websites of other artists for fear of being called a copy cat. Actually, I encourage you to do more of that, Go read, look and see whats out there, get inspired by your peers, share ideas and techniques!!! Art is energy and needs to flow in a positive way.