Turning creative jealousy into inspiration and then imitation contributes to the cycle of inspiration
Why do we observe and appreciate any form of art?
Creative expression is never exclusive
My silly feelings of creative jealousy were born from a thought process that assumed that since someone else has done it, it’s now exclusively theirs and I would just be stealing their idea. In theory, I felt I’d be violating some figurative creative copyright; as if I’d be forfeiting my own authenticity by forging someone else’s.
But in practice, I found my own voice within a conversation they initiated. I found that “copying” is a trivial and irrational worry in the nature of inspiration—it is quite unnatural in the employment of stolen techniques and coveted concepts, as we naturally impose our own idiosyncratic styles and characteristics.
I finally realized that art is never as fixed as math, where if you input the same factors into the same equation you receive the same answer. Regardless of the similarity of technique or concept, creative output always takes the signature form of whoever employs it.
After all, it was one of the greats who asserted that “good artists copy, great artists steal.” It is okay to appropriate art. Copycats simply replicate an original while thieves adopt and impose their own signatures and idiosyncrasies on something that is now their own.
“Good artists copy, great artists steal” – Pablo Picasso
Creative imitation is the essence of entire movements
And wasn’t every artistic movement or period essentially the result of imitation (read: stealing)? The result of one artist peeking at his peer’s paper and writing down the answers in his own handwriting, making sure his signature was written in the corner and then turning it in as his own?
Just look at the distinctive acclaim Van Gogh managed to achieve without stepping on the toes of Monet’s legacy. They both coexist in history as masters in their own right, both bodies of work untainted by accusations of infringement or knock off. Two distinct paths were paved from one idea.
At first, our moral compasses hesitate at the idea of stealing even subtle traces of someone else’s work, but in creation, this is how we adopt an idea or concept as our own. Perhaps this is unethical in academia, but in art, the rules are less strict, the lines are always blurred.
In creation, nothing is personal or hoarded; every creative expression is inherently subject to observation, interpretation, and consequently, imitation, which, of course, is the sincerest form of flattery. There is no fraud or plagiarism in creative stealing. In fact, this is how art, technology, creative work in general, functions and evolves. As evidenced throughout history— from hieroglyphics to the Renaissance to impressionism to surrealism and everything in between—creative stealing is progressive and necessary. Ideas and techniques yearn to be adopted and then adapted within a new idiosyncratic context.
There is no fraud or plagiarism in creative stealing. In fact, this is how art, technology, creative work in general, functions and evolves. As evidenced throughout history— from hieroglyphics to the Renaissance to impressionism to surrealism and everything in between—creative stealing is progressive and necessary. Ideas and techniques yearn to be adopted and then adapted within a new idiosyncratic context.
It is rewarding to be a pioneer, to be the very first, but it is just as rewarding to witness and then interpret that genius within a new physical, mental and spiritual aesthetic.
If you feel the twinges of jealousy of someone’s masterpiece, instead trade it for its positive counterpart. Identify your jealous awe as motivating inspiration. As guidelines for your next endeavor. And add a few more bricks to what they started building. Add your own two cents to their initial statement; make a conversation out of a monologue. That is what creative expression has always been; an infinite conversation in which we are all welcome to partake in.