Thursday, July 15, 2010

Inspiration or Intentional Copy

"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.


Spirited Earth said...
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TesoriTrovati said...

Hey Barbe...somehow I missed your other post (will go back and find it). Inspiration is huge for me and I agree so very much with your statement that everyone needs to "realize their own creative potential and have faith in it". I think that many lack creative confidence and that is where the copycatting comes from. I know it will happen to me at some point, that I will be copied, it is bound to. I myself have worried about being seen as too much like some other artists, but I realize that is just a waste of thought. I have to keep on making my art the best that it can be and not worry about that, as distressing as that thought is. As my bead artist friend put it, creativity is like a big ocean..there is lots of room to splash around in. And I would add that you need to grab your own wave and ride it, not try to hang on to the back of my board. I think that the lack of faith in your own abilities is really the issue. Someone sees something that is hip and popular and rather than riffing on that, internalizing the inspiration and making it their own, they feel the need to copy. That is wrong. I say learn from what you see and experience. Grow with it. Make it your own. But make it better. I only use printed resources as just that. Resources. For new color ways, a single technique, or a new source for materials. Those who use it to copy directly are really cowardly about their abilities. we are all put on this earth to be creators. Trust it.

I am doing an entire gallery exhibit that is called "Inspired by..." right now. I would be so honored if you had time to come to my blog and check out my progress. I would love to know what you think.
Thanks for being an inspiration, Barbe! Enjoy the day!

Barbe Saint John/ Saints and Sinners® said...

Spirited Earth - you are right, that is SO WRONG!! on so many levels.. UGH!! yes the country is big enough for everyones creativity, so why doesn't he look inside and find some of his own rather than steal yours? JERK!

Erin, it was yesterdays post. I need to put in the link. I agree, there is an ocean of creativity for us to splash around in. I love your quote "ride your own wave, not ride on the back of my board." Its true, its all fear based behaviour. I think almost all artists struggle with insecurity, a true artist uses that fear as fuel to continually grow and develop.
I'm going to hop over to your exhibit now and have a look!

Indian Creek Studios said...

I guess this happens all the time, I just today saw another clay artist had put up for sale a piece that looks a whole lot like one of my stock designs, so much I did a double take. I went to this person's online shop, and saw that another well known clay artist was also being duplicated. I suppose I should be flattered but it sure leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Orion Designs said...

What a thoughtful post. I have taken a lot of jewelry and mixed media classes over the years. After the classes, I always inspired to try the techniques in my home studio -- my own environment. I find that everything looks different when created in different surroundings.

I share the concern that some of my work may appear to be copied. In my heart, I know that I used the techniques I've learned to create my own style of jewelry.