Let's Talk About...Copying!
I've seen so many (many) posts lately regarding the topic of copying. An artist posts on social media that they have been copied. Hundreds of "oh no hun, how awful, are you okay???" or "I'm so sorry you've had to go through this!" replies later and everyone has agreed that the "copier" must be named and shamed, hung, drawn, quartered and fed to the pigs, for never has there been a worse "crime" committed since art was invented....by somebody...somewhere...a long, long, long time ago...
You know the ones..... woe is me for I have been... COPIED!!
The question I ask myself when I read these posts is - who did YOU learn from? Where did YOUR inspiration come from? How did YOU get an idea? Bascially, who did YOU "copy"?
Unless you have suddenly found a failsafe cure for cancer, then the chances are that some fantastic idea didn't just pop into your head from the universe. You saw it somewhere first, admired it, took an interest, thought how you could use the medium, how you could express yourself with that medium, have fun with it and produce something that could be called Art.
We all know the "Art" world is a strange place. For example, you don't generally hear knitters bemoaning the fact that somebody else has used the same pattern as them to make a jumper. They made it from wool, it had a back, a front, two sleeves and some buttonholes - same as everybody else. The people who "invented" knitting are long gone, nobody owns knitting!
We also all know that Art is in the eye of the beholder. If two watercolour paintings are sitting side by side ( both artists having used watercolour paint, paper, brushes and possibly the same view) an onlooker might find one more attractive than the other. So, who claims the high ground? Did one copy the other? The answer is no. Maybe they have never seen each other's work, Maybe they sat in the same spot separately and painted the same mountain. Does that give one more rights to paint that particular view in those particular colours on that particular paper than the other by virtue of the fact that Fred was there on Tuesday and Phil didn't make it until Friday?
My real pet hate though are artists who run workshops (where people pay them to learn techniques) and then bemoan the fact that their students are producing work that they (the teacher!) considers to be copies. How does this work exactly? If I paid someone to teach me a skill then damn right I'm going to use that skill. Obviously, at least to begin with, my work will then closely resemble the work of the person who I paid to teach me. If I teach anyone my particular art skill I EXPECT them to use those skills and I'd be amazed if they didn't. There is a finite way of doing EVERYTHING and it's naive to believe that only one person in the whole world has thought of a way of doing something and developing it into an artwork. It is wrong for people to claim a technique or a style as their very, very own just because they worked it out before the next person.
Not only are these increasingly common posts slightly egotistical but they are also damaging to up and coming artists, some of whom are terrified of being branded a "copier". They are then scared to really explore their art, take inspiration and learn from other artists, try things out or get their efforts into the public domain through social media and are therefore stifled.
Unless someone is trying to actually pass their work off as being that of a famous artist (which even I think is very naughty, but quite clever if they can do it...) then live and let live. It's a big world out there and there is more than enough room for all of us and our art! Be generous with your knowledge, be open with your skills, embrace your talent and share it with others because the chances are somebody will eventually work out how you did it all by themselves anyway...