Inspiration vs imitation? Where does one end and the other start? How do we identify the boundaries of an idea and see how it's propigated? And what ideas are fresh? Is there even such a thing as a fresh or new idea?
I got to thinking how no one can own a style or approach or even a compositional idea, and isn't it amazing how the same spark of inspiration can send different brains in different directions.
Inspiration comes in all forms. I am not the first - or last - artist to paint a particular perspective or silhouette.
But where does inspiration fall by the wayside? When does inspiration become a crutch, leading directly to imitation?
This was precipated by my discovery yesterday of a daily painter like myself, one who enjoys painting animals too. And one who had several paintings in their portfolio nearly identical to paintings of mine.
In the past I've had other artists set up websites with domain names and content similar to mine at Painting a Dog a Day.It was then when I reminded myself of that old saying "Imitation is the highest form of flattery."
Either that or it's pure coincidence - I discretly pointed out once that a fellow pet portrait artist's domain name and blog design were nearly identical to mine, and did they have any concerns our customers would not be able to tell us apart? Absolutely not and how dare I accuse a devout Christian like them, how dare I create a situation out of something purely coincidental.
(By the way, I wish those sorts of odds would play into my favor tonite when I buy my lottery tix!!)
So I decide I've gotta give them the benefit of the doubt. Like I mentioned before, I am not the first or last artist to paint or run my business or even design my blog in a particular way. So how dare I claim to own something as transient as a compositional idea or business concept? Lots of people come up with the same ideas given different circumstances and experiments - that's why we have the word "coincidence," right? (Of course there's also the word "sarcasm" but that's another story)
So I asked this artist who's work was so similar to mine specifically about their inspiration. I was curious if they travelled the same path as I or did they stumble across their ideas in a different fashion. How did we both end up with the same results inside a different time frame and given different scenarios?
It wasn't much of a shocker to learn that inspiration wasn't even remotely part of this person's process. They openly admitted to copying my artwork.
And marketing their copied paintings as their own original art.
And using tracings of my paintings in workshops they taught.
They couched their actions behind a lame excuse.
Which led me to recall that other saying about the dullest crayon in the box. Because there is no way I believe a working artist does not know it is illegal to copy and present someone else's work as their own. First of all, we learn in Kindergarten not to copy from our classmates. And then somewhere down the line we learn about copyright law.
So this person has promised to delete their copies of my paintings and remove derivative course content from their site. They have fallen over themselves repeating "sorries" that frankly sound hallow to my ears. And they've pledged to post a blog update and share something on Facebook about what they've learned from this situation.
Myself, I have serious doubts that my artwork is the only copy-catted art on their site.
I also have no means of policing that they won't choose imitation over inspiration another time.
Or of trusting that this isn't happening on 100 other websites exactly at this moment in time.
I can't help but think what a sad scenario, to be given talent but not the faith or personal conviction to exercise it. I am so grateful that, no matter my own burdens, I am not in their shoes, nor will I ever be.
Off to my easel to follow some inspiration of my own making,
What Was Going Down on the Easel While I was Pondering
This is a 16" x 20" panel, the latest in my Saratoga Series of paintings, created from photos I took during my summer sojourns at the track.
These are just some of the images I shared via Facebook yesterday. You are welcome to comment about my process or progress or lack thereof over there!!
And thanks in advance!!
Near the end of the night, I decided that the light green silks on the jockey were too close in color and value to the background, and painted them purple. That was the beginning of my struggles with finishing this one and dragging this piece deep into "The Uglies."
Can I save it? I hope so. Today.