inspiration vs imitation
Early this year or late last year I painted this piece. It's called "Bent" and is 16x20" acrylic paint on canvas with knitting needles.
|Please excuse the desk light|
This piece came to me in a dream. Seriously! I know it sounds dumb, but I dreamt of this piece and then I did my best to recreate it in the real world. I was super happy with it when it was finished. I showed it to my partner who immediately said I must have been inspired by an artist friend of mine.
I was deeply upset by that statement. What I heard was "you copied him" despite that not being said. I was ashamed that I had inadvertently copied him, sure that such a thing would ruin our friendship. I know it might sound silly, but something similar happened to me before. To be accused of stealing the work of a friend destroyed me (though I don't want to imply it was the reason our friendship ended. I am guilty there as well), and I thought I had evolved past that behavior. I thought I had learned my lesson and paid the price and moved on.
But my partner just told me that wasn't true.
So, I put that painting in a closet with the cat box and forgot about it. I chalked it up as a failure of morality, of ethics, of my spiritual self, and that I might as well pretend it didn't exist.
However, almost a year later, I have the piece hanging in my living room, right above my desk, in fact. What changed?
A lot has changed. 2020 has been a powerful year of transformation for all of us. One interesting path I didn't see myself taking was that of learning about Gnosticism, studying the bible, and generally diving into Christianity. Most recently I've been studying Ecclesiastes, and this quote jumped out to me:
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. (Eccles. 1:9)
In reference to my art, I realized that there really is no new thing under the sun. Everything done now has already been done before. Therefore, if it was not done with malice, inspiration from other works or artists is how creativity works. Many people do this in malice without even realizing it. "Well, it works for her, so I'll start doing it too" or "He sells a lot of those items. I don't get the significance of it, but I'm going to sell those items too so I can make more money."
I did not intend to make a copy of my friend's work. I simply created something that was in my head. The images that form in my head consist of images I've seen before, rearranging them until I get the image I want. I don't think there is anything wrong or even unusual about this. As I said, this is how creativity works.
However, I've been guilty of stealing ideas or concepts from other people in a malicious way in the past. I think plenty of us have been there. Knowing the difference between inspiration and theft is an important lesson we all have to learn and, certainly, it's a lesson you may not learn until later in life.
In 2017 I had what I believe was a mental breakdown. I'm still recovering from it, and this is just one lesson that I'm understanding now.