The "copying" Debate…

I came across a post about “copying” on my facebook timeline in response to a recent post in an artist’s blog.

I generally try to keep away from controversial topics, preferring to offer tips and techniques or straightforward information in my blog.

However I do feel strongly about this subject.

I think to use the word “copying” is inadvisable.

It seems to me that there is one indisputable fact and that is that we are ALL influenced more or less by artists who have come before us.

Those artists might be the old masters from centuries ago from Leonardo to Claude Lorraine to Monet to Lowry; or they might be the contemporary, living artists whose work is very familiar to us through contemporary media such as Warhol or David Hockney, or they might be the active teaching artists whose work we follow and from whom we learn from day to day from the books, magazines and dvds that they produce or contribute to.

And all this is so much more accessible now with the availability of endless images on line with a click of the mouse.  Where people 100 years ago would have to make a long journey to the city to visit a gallery to see paintings by their preferred artist, now we can google those images in a matter of seconds.

If we are passionate about art and painting we deliberately immerse ourselves every day in a bath of art.  We are hungry for inspiration and ideas and we are always on the lookout for images that please and give us a sense of wonder and make us think, Oh I wonder if I could do that?

And the images that please us the most are going to be the ones that we try to emulate.  But I would say that we are not “copying” but admiring and wondering at the beauty of what we see and wanting to make it our own and master it because we love it so much.

Students of painting in the past would be encouraged to sit at their easel in front of an old master and literally copy it in order to learn.
Now our sensitivities do not allow these blatant methods…well at least not in art colleges.

But hold on…now we have the Step by Step Books!

I myself have had two step by step books published by Search Press where I painted watercolours and someone took photos of me doing it.

Am I surprised that “copies” of those paintings are proudly displayed?  Of course I’m not!  I’m delighted!  That is the whole point of the books.  If they appear on line then of course they should be credited to the artist to avoid confusion and it’s always better to display original work on line.  But nowadays it’s the name of the game that we are all encouraged to have a go.

When I paint my watercolours, I know that I am benefiting from all I learned from every single book I read voraciously and every single artist I admired in the process of learning.  But those watercolours came from my hand and through my personality even though the techniques and methods were garnered over years and years of study.

I think that to say that someone is “copying” my style would be an example of extreme hubris.  Because I know that my style is simply a conglomeration of everything that has passed in front of my eyes and made me gasp with delight.  I warmly thank every artist that I have ever admired for inspiring me.