Is Copying Wrong?

If you are a creative type who is actively trying to grow a business on social media outlets, you have inevitably witnessed a few catfights online in the form artists calling other artists out for stealing their style.  I've seen these posts and stories and feel empathy for those involved,  but I also kind of scratch my head in confusion because the wronged artist has surely been influenced by others as well, right?  That's a rhetorical question.  I'm pretty sure we all have.  **Disclaimer:  I'm absolutely not talking about blatant copying or brands using artist's work without permission**

This has always worried me a bit because I know that I've been influenced by artists I admire.  Heck, I even take a class called "Painting Like the Masters".  In this class we are literally copying the work of the great painters or masters and learning from their style and process.  I love it and I'm learning so much. 

Knowing all of this, I get a little uncomfortable when I see these posts about stealing.  I'm new to the art world and am not quite sure where the line is.  I get inspired by new styles and expressions from artists both living and deceased and try to learn and develop that which interests and inspires me.  Is that wrong?   

I went to the Salvador Dali Museum last week with another artist friend, and we walked through the gallery chronologically starting with his early works.  Dali spent many of his early years trying to find himself as an copying the artists he admired.  He dabbled with impressionism, cubism, and more.  He even dressed himself like his favorite artists and painted portraits of himself emulating them.  All of this experimentation led him to be an incredible artist who has, in turn, inspired so many others. 

After seeing that one of the greatest artists of all time started out by copying, I decided to do some research. According to Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist, the so-called “original” thinkers and creators are simply people who effectively learned to remix other people’s materials.

Originality isn’t about doing what’s never been done in a strict sense, but it’s about the unique way in which each individual gives expression to his or her artistic influences. Kleon argues that “Nothing is original. The writer Jonathan Lethem has said that when people call something “original,” nine out of ten times they just don’t know the references or the original sources involved. What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas.” -Pgs 7–8

So, let's have fun and explore that which inspires us.  Through that exploration, we'll create our unique style in how we put it all together!  I'm pretty sure this process is never least it is for me, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  

Further reading:



My latest floral still life inspired by several of the incredible florists I follow online and their beautiful arrangements! 

Nina Ramos