Recently, I’ve had a number of people asking me my opinion on what copied art is and when does it cross a line. Is it fair for people to have these opinions and accuse people of copying? This is actually something I’ve thought about a lot, mainly because of the experiences that I have had and have heard artists go through.
Back in school, especially in college, an essential credential in our sketchbooks was to do master copies of artists’ work, which whom we admired. We would print out, for example, a Van Gogh drawing and had to try and replicate it. In doing so, it helped us learn the elements of drawing. Copying is a learning tool, obviously not an emphasis, but a way to study. Even in music, most people first learn how to play guitar by copying and memorizing their favorite song. We learn from artists by studying history and the masters. We have to learn the technical elements in why we are attracted to a piece of art. Having this background knowledge helps us, as creatives, tap into originality and free creative expression. I recently had a young art class in Australia do master copies of a couple of my cows. Not only was it the cutest thing to see their cows, it was also so cool to see how much they focused on gesture lines and shapes. This kind of copying is in no way a threat. It’s an honor.
Some of the stories I hear of what artists have experienced form other artists on social media, which I personally have too, is crazy. Who thought there could be drama in art? Unfortunately, I think this is one of the negative things that social media entails: people thinking everyone’s copying everyone (literally makes me LOL). Now days, we have access to see thousands upon thousands of artists at our fingertips. But everyone’s art is different. Everyone’s work is unique. If there is someone who you could hold their painting up to another artists work and it is identical, well there is an issue if they are not giving credit to (like doing a master copy) or if they are selling it as their own original art. But we have got to get it out of our heads that if someone is painting flowers, for example, it doesn’t mean they are copying.
I had someone come onto my page a while ago and accuse me of copying. At first, it honestly just pissed me off because it was degrading to everything I stand and work for. But I also had to remind myself this person must not know art history or the elements of art. That kind of attack is coming from a place of insecurity or from lack of knowledge. For anyone who thinks they are the only one entitled to something in painting, I’m going to go ahead and tell you that you need to go back and study some art history and drop the ego. There is a big difference between a critique and a critic. Constructive criticism vs. personal attacking.
Just for an example: The oldest paintings that we know of are thought to be over 32,000 years old of animals, painted on the walls in Chauvet cave (France). This idea of painting animals is not unique. So yes, none of us animal painters are the first. And that’s why we have to work extra hard in order to have an original concept and illustration in every subject we paint. Why we must take our own reference photos and use our own imagination. Even so far as color, we artists all have access to the same materials and hues. We studied color theory, just like we did with studying the masters. We take that knowledge and use color to express what we are attracted to and to express emotions.
A great practice (which I do with every series I make), is to make a personal artist statement. We did this in college and had to build it along with our final series in thesis. Concept is a huge thing when connecting to your art and process. Through journaling and connecting to your work in this sense, it will create a true expression from a honest and unique spot within yourself. I haven’t shared my personal statements with my art because I like to leave it up to the viewer to have their own experience with it… ignite their own emotions and stories when looking at a painting. But in building concept and connecting with purpose, it reaffirms the confidence in knowing my creations are coming from an honest place. It makes me understand why I am painting what I am painting, and choosing the colors and imagery with reason.
I think this idea of people accusing others of copying relates to the question of: Is art a competition?
I think I could assume every artist out there is working hard to stand out as unique. Knowing how hard I personally want to stand out as individual, we must think that other people are feeling that same way. If you are competing, it’s something that’s going on in your mind. Competition is an illusion in terms of creating. This is not a sport.
Art is not a competition.
Art is not about winning or losing.
Art is about creating and giving.
Art is a personal expression to give to a larger expression at whole.
We are here as artists to give something to the world and people around us.
We are here to create lasting expressions through life’s transience.
I am not trying to be better than someone else. I want to grow myself. Being a creative, that is the goal. To commit to this endless journey within ourselves so we can give outward.
How can we grow if we are too worried about what other people are doing or what they will think? How can we create if we judge or focus on ourselves being judged? How can we do our best if we don’t feel like what we are doing is enough?
As an artist we must surrender to the fact that there will be people that judge us. There will be people that might not connect with your work. Or don’t like that new painting you just completed.
There will be negative people that we run into along the way.
We must face any insecurity that we have that will lead us to compete or even worse, hold us back from shining our true light.
At the end of the day, what always matters the most is to stay true to yourself.
Do you. Express you. As artists we paint in our studios by ourselves for a reason. Even if you’re painting next to your friend, you’re not talking while in the process. We enter a place of meditation and that is from a place of honesty, presence, emotions, connection, and reason. Your painting is you, and that is what matters.
Art is like a diary. How can you compete with that? It’s too personal of a thing.