I saw this quote while browsing Instagram a few weeks ago and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. While I was considering what to write for my second post, these words kept surfacing at the forefront of my mind. While creating my own art or even observing the art of others, I constantly question where the source of inspiration lies. As much as some people like to argue this, I very much believe that everything has been done before, by someone, somewhere. The lingering debate usually stems from whether you subconsciously or consciously decide to imitate and/or reinterpret an idea. Think about it: you can usually find traces of “your style” in the work of others, be it an abstract idea or use of a technique.
This is not a negative thing.
One of the purposes of art (also a highly loaded topic) is to exchange ideas: the possibility of inspiring others to create work that shares a common thread goes hand in hand with exposing your ideas to the public. People will want to make connections with your work, and sometimes those connections ultimately result in pieces that seem eerily familiar to something you’ve seen or done before. It’s a strange feeling, sometimes leaving you with questions like, “Am I not original/creative/intelligent enough?” but it also becomes motivation to dig deeper into a concept and highlight how your ideas, process, and products are unique. With so many variables coming together to make up your entire being, it is impossible to recreate a work exactly (sometimes even if you’re trying to- hello, classical drawing studies!). The creator and means behind the creation will always be different.
So what do you do if you find yourself in this state, asking yourself these questions?
RESPECT YOUR SOURCES. Give credit where credit is due. A simple acknowledgement of what sparked your thinking can lead others back to your source material, maybe resulting in work that is a vastly different interpretation of what you saw or experienced. Opening up your creative process to the world can lead to a more honest and clear reception of your finished piece, and could hopefully encourage others to do the same.
Featured Image: Detail of work in process, Jill Sibio, 2018.