With so many artists teaching online these days (including me) and so many techniques to learn, it’s inevitable that a student’s work is influenced by an instructor’s.
That’s kinds of the point – if you admire someone’s work, you want to know how it’s done. But the rest of the story is about what happens when you know how it’s done and what you do with the information.
In the last newsletter from the GAGA group of women artists, this question was posed:
I have spent the last two years working hard on my painting style so that I can become as recognized as other artist of note in this community. I have paid a lot of money to teachers for classes and workshops, incorporating their techniques to help me improve and sell my art. Now that I am getting ready to enter a national juried exhibition (with substantial prize money), this pops up in the Prospectus: “Works that have been completed under instruction or in direct association with a class or workshop are not eligible.” So why have I spent so much of my money on these classes and workshops if I can’t use the art techniques from my teachers?
See what you think about the answer:
Most worthwhile juried shows include this phrase to protect both professional artists who teach and students who so admire the work of the instructor that they do their best to copy an instructor’s style and end up looking rather foolish and unoriginal. Good exhibition guidelines discourage direct copying of another artist’s style, which can be like trying to find a lazy shortcut to success without all the work it took the original artist to get organically to that point. It can also be illegal – an artist has the right to prohibit others from making truly derivative works.
Technique is only one part of the equation of being an artist. And a lot of work done under instruction has both the professor’s hand as well as intellectual creative “solve” in it! So, student work is not artist work. It’s a stepping-stone to one’s finally developed voice!! You can and should learn technique, but after that it is your creative vision, internal dialogue, life experience and expression that cannot be duplicated. It is up to everyone to find this for themselves. Technique is not art, lessons are training wheels, copying is not creating, paintings are not recipes and sales are not always the goal.
If you do not yet recognize this and are upset by this very common phrase in a Call for Entries, perhaps you should spend a bit more time on your journey of development. When you learn how to experiment and play in your own way with what you learn, you will develop your own voice. Quit imitating and honor the techniques you learn from your teachers by translating them into your own language. Being slavishly derivative does not become any of us and does not earn us recognition in exhibitions.
“Influence” and “emulation” and “incorporation” are all words we use that describe our use of the signature techniques that other artists share with us. “Copying” has a different connotation altogether.
And you certainly don’t have to be a teacher to experience the realization that another artist is “heavily influenced” by your work. It’s a complicated subject.
Jude Hill is a beloved fiber artist whose blog and practice are followed by thousands of people. She is sensitive, low-key, and very authentic. She addresses this complicated issue in a video – it’s really brilliant. It’s so relaxing to watch her stitch and listen to her soothing voice.
So what do you think? It’s certainly not a black-and-white situation, and there is, as I always say, “more than one right answer.”
To help give you some perspective, read Inspiration vs. Imitation by Christine Nishiyama, illustrator, author, and artist. You’ll enjoy it.
Isn’t there always some kind of cross-pollination in creativity? We are all constantly learning and observing. It might not always be copying. Thank you for sharing.
I agree – assimilation is the way I think of it.
Writer used this word and it’s true in any category.
Chefs evolve. Artists evolve.
Even evolution has evolved!
WEEEEEE are originals and unless we are in a serious class where copying is WHAT you are doing to learn, we are constantly “inspired” by others.
I stroll through Pinterest and see a color that I Must mix and use, or a photograph of a vintage home that I wish I could see in person, so I draw/paint it.
NO ONE can be a Jude Hill or Lyn Belisle.
Why should we Want to?
It would only rob us of discovering who WE ARE.
Still there will be folks that outright steal from others.
I’ve always said, if someone steals from me, my besties will know it (which will affirm me) and I will just go down a new lane and make something else.
How exciting would That be?!!
You’re still inspiring me, dear Lyn…Laura
You are always so thoughtful in your answers – and so correct that each of us is an original. I’m thinking particularly of your ceramic animals and other creatures – totally you. ♥
It did upset me when a boutique owner had her friend copy one of my best selling styles 100% – down to my signature pocket and placement of it – and paid the friend just for material and a little extra for pocket money.
And had another designer copy other styles and make them in Bali.
I am soon starting a Comprehensive Course on teaching my styles, variations of them and my Signature painting techniques that I haven’t seen anywhere else.
I am o.k. with people using it all “as copy” for their personal enjoyment.
And even for their small business as a designer.
But I don’t want people to teach exactly the same thing. I want instructors to really make it their own.
So – I am not sure how to go about that. Since I have an inquiry from a fiber artist who teaches work shops.
Does anyone have thoughts on that?
I think you are incredibly generous to share your patterns – that’s above and beyond what most of us are willing to do. 🙂
Hey thank you for including me here.
it’s a dizzying issue isn’t it?
Jude, your gentle musings reflected so beautifully what so many of us discuss and wrestle with – thank you for modelling an artist’s life for us with all its dizzy complexities!
I was always a “reader” and I credit the many, many books, essays, poems, and articles that I have read over the years with making me a “writer”
so it it with fiber art … always I am learning … here and in your workshops (online and in person), from Jude’s Spirit Cloth, at FASA, on Instagram, in online classes and books, at museums and art galleries, and from the many bloggers I call my Kindred Spirits
and as much as I enjoy crediting those who have shown or taught me something new, my greatest joy is found in the act of creating … the end product is the realization, the artifact of that joy