It is not clear exactly who said “Good artists copy, but great artists steal.” It might have been Picasso. The poet TS Eliot wrote something very similar in 1920. Regardless, the quote brings to the forefront an idea, a concept that I am consistently highlighting in all my Art2Life programs.
It has to do with creating your Art from looking primarily inside of yourself instead of outside of yourself. I teach a lot of workshops and I understand and appreciate the temporary influence a teacher’s work may have upon a students. While this is to be expected, I am not at all interested in having this be the final result for my students.
When someone is copying someone else’s art, it just means that they are looking outside of themselves more than they are looking within. In the beginning everyone is trying to figure out what kind of Art it is exactly they can make. Everyone is influenced. I surely was and I too copied people’s work because I so badly wanted to create work that I loved. I couldn’t see my own work at that point, as it was still unmade. It is far easier and certainly more visually obvious to look at what others – such as your teachers, past artists, those you admire – are making for the answers instead of where the true answers lay: within yourself.
Everyone – and I really mean everyone – is capable of discovering what their own creativity can create if they are willing to take the time to investigate. Every person walking the Earth is utterly unique. No 2 people are the same. However, to really visually represent this difference one must pay attention to one’s self and not so much to what others are doing.
If you are copying it means you are looking over your shoulder at someone else’s art instead of your own. If, on the other hand, you steal someone art then this is something entirely different. Taking inspiration, taking colors, design, whatever and then using it, modifying it as your own actually transforms it into something personal. What matters in the end is your thinking. Are you inside or outside of yourself when making Art?
It is always challenging to find your own expression. It is mired with half starts, uncertainties and can, over time, wear you down, particularly when your art does not match your expectations.
Looking back now I so clearly can remember all the firsts, all the fun and even the pain, and certainly all the tremendous “ah ha!” moments I found along the way. This is what it is all about. The life of an artist is an unfolding, a peeling away of layers… layers of self-doubt, ego, dreams, hopes and always renewed optimism and faith.
It turns out that the practice of finding your own Art is ultimately the practice of finding your own Life. And finding that makes everything else pale in comparison. I want to say thank you. I feel especially grateful to be part of this tribe.