Over the last year or so, some of you have been taking in my pearls of wisdom (or not, as the case may be).
I have used the phrase ‘good artists borrow, great artists steal’ many times, but have you stopped to think what exactly it is that I’m on about…..
It’s about finding inspiration in the work of others – using that as a starting point for original creative output.
Artists sometimes decontextualise, remix, substitute, or otherwise recreate existing work in order to make something new.
For example – there are a number of photographers who are taking images from Google Earth, and rehashing them into something different – but what makes this sort of thing ‘stealing’?
It’s that instead of borrowing something, and making a weak imitation, which might just serve to remind people of the superior original, it has been changed by you, with your own new ideas.
Then, when you’ve transformed it – your audience may look at both works and say that yours explores that idea in a new and different way – you then own that new idea – you’ve stolen it.
Modern writers steal Shakespeare’s plots. The Lion King is a version of Hamlet, and West Side Story a version of Romeo and Juliet – these adaptations though transformed the original idea and became iconic, and famous in their own right.
There is a difference between inspiration and imitation, but also between inspiration and straightforward copy. It’s not copying when you replicate how the great masters used colour, or composition in their paintings in order to improve your own work.
How did the great painters and artists train their students? – they gave them things to copy…. I’ve seen it on the Antiques Road Show – the expert doesn’t always know if it was the master or the student, if the piece is not signed. Hence the importance of provenance.
Steal ideas if you must – but then go away and make that idea and concept your very own…. you never know, someone might just steal that idea and move it on some more…. be flattered if they do.