Influenced or Copier?

Famous artist Pablo Picasso said “good artists copy but great artists steal.”

This is a strange concept, and leaves us wondering what he meant by this statement. Did he actually steal other artists’ ideas? I think he meant that such great things already exist that we can use to influence our own ideas further. For example, in Picasso’s case, he was intrigued by African Tribal masks and “stole” the concept of these designs to use in his development of cubism, which he was renowned for.

The founder of the Apple Mac Steve Jobs, is known for reiterating this quotation from Picasso when he said, “It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done – and then try to bring those things in to what you’re doing. Picasso had a saying: Good artists copy, Great artists steal – and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”

So are you still confused? Let me give you my perspective on the topic – in today’s world, whether we want to dance, sing, write poetry or novels, paint or sculpt or any other creative activity, we find ourselves seeking desperately to be original, but whilst researching ways to culminate our ideas, we come across other works that inspire us. We can already SEE it – there it is, finished and glorious, but unfortunately, it has already been done by somebody else. To copy this creation would be downright plagiarism and illegal with potential lawsuits to ensue should it become known.

That’s a No-no. So instead we allow ourselves to be inspired by the creator of the work, to admire him or her for their achievements. We decide to imitate them in a way that is uniquely our own rather than blatantly replicating another’s work. This is INFLUENCE.

We are not able to copyright Ideas, (although we can patent the original concept, like an invention or a first publication,) and there is always the potential to improve on any given idea in existance.

I can hear you saying, “it’s impossible to improve on a Master’s artwork,” Though this may be true, you don’t really want to even try, but rather endeavour to develop your own style of dancing, writing, singing or painting. Find your own voice – albeit striving to achieve the great results your influencer did. Emulate the techniques by all means, but not the actual image if it’s a painting, or words if it’s writing etc.

Don’t duplicate – don’t reproduce or mimic the original. Just try to follow their example.

What is the benefit of copying anyhow? To learn? Well yes, this is a way to learn, but what happens when it comes to doing your own piece with the same techniques? You don’t have a reference of what it should look like next. Therefore it is ultimately better not to try and copy another, but to initiate your own work at the onset, bearing in mind the influence of the person you admire as inspiration.

Although we can improve on most things that have been done already – this is how we evolve – there are trillions of variables in any one concept and bear in mind that every style is as unique as a finger print and which if dissected thoroughly, would prove to be inimitable. Any masterpiece in the world could defy imitation as the strokes of the hand or the pressure used or the exact colours or the musician’s touch or voice, etc, is in reality, matchless.

Picasso wasn’t the only art genius in this world, and you too have the very ability to aspire to the same heights he did, by maintaining your uniqueness and permitting yourself to be influenced by ideas, styles and the competence of others, but by no means copying them. You may become famous, but it could be with negative connotations, and besides, you don’t need to – you are capable of the very same in your own activities.

Who knows that in by so doing, you may be the very person who influences others one day. It may be your work that is so admired and is wanted to be emulated by others!! So keep the freshness and originality alive in your work – create NEW, because your inventiveness portrays your uniqueness and skill. Your resourcefulness is what ignites your imagination and gives rise to your own exceptionality whether influenced by another or not, – this result is exclusively yours – to be admired by all those who witness it.

So be like Pablo Picasso and Steve Jobs – shamelessly steal ideas but never copy!

Let me know if you have other ideas on this subject. I look forward to the dialogue with you!


3 Replies to “Influenced or Copier?”

  1. I agree – don’t copy but do be inspired by. The test is not only “have I copied this unchanged or built on it?”, but also “Is this right for me or am I trying to be someone else?”.

    No doubt Picasso used the word “steal” to be deliberately provocative, but it may also be revealing of a mindset which reproduces the legal protection of works of art and says, “this poem, this painting, this idea, is MINE!”. No, it’s not, and it doesn’t get better for having a signature on it.

  2. Thanks for your comments Simon! You made some valid points – I loved the one saying “Is this right for me or am I trying to be someone else?” By copying we really are trying to be someone else – instead of tapping into our own genius. Thanks for stopping by…hope to see you again!

  3. i usually repaint, very rare of my digital paintings are from my brain. glad to know that someone like picasso applied some balm to my uneasy conscience.

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