Weekend Inspiration – Plagiarize!
Art is either plagiarism or revolution. It was the late 1800′s when French Post Impressionist painter, Paul Gauguin, was busy searching facebook for all the girls he’d ever slept with, staring at his netbook through yet another glass of Mad Dog Grape Wine, wondering if his memories of memories would prove to be lairs. Were these past loves of his hot, or were they not? Turned out, for the most part, they were not. That’s when, in an unrelated burst of brilliance, it occurred to him that art is either plagiarism or revolution.
Okay, so maybe it didn’t happen exactly like that. Maybe? Alright, definitely never happened. But it would have if Mr. G was alive now. Fortunately creative types from centuries ago had really crappy Internet connections. That meant they had plenty of quality thinkin’ time to come up with gems like, Art is either plagiarism or revolution.
That’s what we’ll be talking about today. What does this quote mean? Well, I haven’t had time to think about it. I’m running a 9+ Mbps connection to the nets, so….
If I did have time to think about it (instead of mashing the refresh button on my twitter page every .5 secs), I’d say that the suggestion serves us better if we see it as ticket to freedom rather than a warning of self destruction. Revolution? That’s a lot of pressure.
Being creative can get tricky. We’ve got this inner voice – mine sounds like Kermit the Frog for some reason. And that voice says things like (read as Kermit): “That idea has been done before, you worthless piece of shit!” Or: “If you aren’t going to be original, you might as well go fucking kill yourself because you should have never been born in the first place, dickweed!” Or: “You’re feet smell like Miss Piggies va–” Why so mean, Kermit?
(Apologies for Kermit’s foul language.)
We’ve got that inner voice telling us we suck. Well, at least mine does. Maybe yours buys you candy. Then we have the probability that we actually do suck. I mean, I do. I’m no where near as good as I want to be. But if I didn’t create anything, didn’t snap a single photograph until I was a master photographer, I’d never even become mediocre. Instead I snap away and any day now I’ll actually be mediocre (fingers crossed).
You can’t revolutionize with every snap of the shutter. It’s just not going to happen for even the best of the best. Most will never revolutionize at all. That’s what I mean by “ticket to freedom.” If you can turn to your inner Kermit and say, “I don’t have to revolutionize. I don’t have to be original!” If you don’t have to be original you can just be. You’ll get better a lot faster that way. And it’s a heck of a lot more fun. Besides trying too hard to be original is the most unoriginal idea ever!
I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to innovate, personalize, express your self straight from the gut. No! Personally, I’m compelled to do those things. But at least from time to time give yourself a get out of jail free card and just set out to copy.
Find an image that has something you love about it. It could be the lighting, the composition, the idea, the model’s expression, anything. By now you must have a collection of favorite images you’ve collected or bookmarked, right? If not, hit the library, pal! Take one of those images and set out to copy it. You can change anything about it that you like. Use it as a starting off point. A resting point. And a returning point if you need one. Just free yourself from feeling bad about borrowing any or all aspects of the image. Then see how it comes out and think about what you learned.
About a decade and a half ago I was in Seattle for a writer’s consortium. One night a couple of us were having beers back at the hotel room of a VERY successful and respected novelist. I was going on and on about how I feel compelled to be original (yes, I’m an ass). This novelist mentor of mine told me that everyone, “I mean EVERYONE steals.” I was floored. I through up all my defenses. “Not me! I don’t steal.” He told me I’d better start and added, “The difference between a successful artist and a failure is that successful artists steal from people that are more talented than themselves. Failures will steal from anyone.”