Are We All Copying Eachother?
Here’s a Hanna off the cuff post, all about how I personally find myself lacking artistic creativity a lot of the time. This isn’t a new thing – it’s been with me since I was a kid. You know how some kids love to play outside; ride their bikes, go swimming, run around, or just play games made from their own imagination? I was always the kid who was forced to go outdoors by my parents. I was far more content just sitting and drawing or painting, reading, or making radio shows on my cassette player. Eventually we compromised and I was allowed to do all of the stuff I liked doing, outdoors. There are oodles of pictures of me as a kid, outside on a blanket, reading or drawing in the shade.
You would think that with my having always been more into arts than anything else, I would be really great at coming up with original concepts…but behind the pictures of me drawing is a moment just before the picture was taken where I would ask my mom, “What should I draw?”
I could never come up with something out of my own head to draw. My parents would try to encourage me and say, “Draw whatever you want” (which now I’m thinking back…was that encouragement, or just a nice way of saying they had adult responsibilities and they wanted me off their back?), but I could never come up with anything. I just needed someone to tell me what to make, and I’d make it happen.
Now that I’m an adult and definitely can’t ask my mom to tell me what to do, I still find myself lacking the creativity to come up with ideas from my own head. And now with the internet, even if I do come up with something I think is original, a quick internet search will show me that someone else has already planted their flag on that concept long before I even arrived at the idea. It’s made me wonder: are we all just copying eachother? Is there any such thing as a 100% original idea anymore?
When I create something that inevitably ends up on this site, I try to think of what concept I want and how it will be received by the end audience (i.e. if the concept is “party invitation with glitter”, it would be interpreted completely differently for a child’s birthday party compared to a swanky gala for adults in their 40s and 50s). I honestly don’t have any outside influences that pertain to art. I don’t follow any blogs, I’m not on Pinterest (yes, there’s a Hanna Creates account, but I only go there to put my images on it and then sign out), I don’t read magazines, and I don’t watch lifestyle channels. So when I think of a concept, I think it’s coming from my own head. But one quick internet search and I’ll find that somehow, that’s already something that is popular right at the moment.
I think the best way to make my point is to say this. Several years ago when I had an active Twitter account where I would drop one-liners to an audience of a couple of friends, I decided to post a picture of something I thought was hilarious and oh so original: Lieutenant Worf from Star Trek: TNG beside a picture of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album.
Yeah, that’s not my own image. Someone else from Greece came up with the exact same idea. And it looks like all of that has taken off with a shirt designed by someone in Ottawa, Canada (props my Canadian brother).
Another example is that when I’m making stuff with fonts, I try to go for a very specific mood with the font I choose and will purposely go for fonts that I notice don’t have a lot of downloads. Within months of me choosing what I think is such a standout and unique font, I’ll see that font on everything around me.
With me being so worried about creating something 100% original, I often have to wonder: does that even exist? And if we are all just copying eachother, is that really the worst thing?
If you’ve come to my site, likely it’s because of my two most popular posts: the 1920s/Gatsby Invitation and the sports garlands. Neither of those are original ideas from me. They are both based on ideas others had. In the case of the 1920s invitation, I credit the original creator of this invitation right in the post. Theirs is a tangible, paper invitation where mine is a digital copy. I feel bad that I couldn’t come up with this design on my own, but I also put several hours into my invitation. Every one of those lines in the invite were made by me. And that may sound easy, but getting everything just the right length and height was time consuming. Not to mention I was brand new at using InDesign, so any shortcuts I know about now I definitely had no clue existed back when the invitation was made. As for the sports garlands, I did an internet search for sports themed party ideas and saw that there were football garlands…but I felt they weren’t detailed enough, so I took the idea and made my own, and then added baseball and basketball garlands to the mix.
In those cases, because something was already created by someone else, it sparked an idea in my own mind. It’s kind of like a musician covering a song. When you see or hear something you like, you wonder how it might be interpreted by you and you set to work making your very own version of the thing that’s already in existence. To me, I think it’s important to have this flow of ideas from one person to the next. If the maker of the Worf/Joy Division t-shirt had never seen Star Trek or known about Joy Division, he wouldn’t have been able to make a really silly shirt. If I’d never seen that one football garland, I wouldn’t have thought to make my own and then tack on two more sports balls for additional garlands.
All of this post (and thank you for sticking around if you’re still reading) has been a way for me to get out there for other people who love to create art in their own way to know that it’s perfectly fine and totally normal to springboard your own ideas off of something that already exists. You don’t always need to be the one and only person who has thought of a concept, because what are the odds that no one else in the whole world of over seven-billion of us has ever had the same idea? It’s OK if you’re just starting to find your creative niche and you copy pictures with tracing paper from a book, or paste the image in Photoshop and trace over it. Eventually all of that copying will lead you to your own style. Don’t feel any less creative just because you’re copying something that already exists. That’s how you’ll learn and grow as an artist.
Before I close, with all this talk about copying, let me clarify that copying someone’s work and then profitting from it is NOT okay. There’s a fine line between inspiration and stealing, so make sure that if you are copying, go ahead and post it for people to see, but credit back to the original artist so people know how to find them for more of their work. Also, taking someone’s design and then selling it as your own for profit is just not a nice thing to do. That’s a whole other can of worms, though, with big companies taking people’s online art and using it in their designs. Yikes! So when in doubt and if you don’t want your stuff copied and shirked off as someone else’s, put your signature somewhere in the piece. And please…host things on your own site. Once you post stuff to social media, it can become the property of that platform to sell or use however they want. That could honestly be a post of its own because those site policies sometimes make my blood boil. 😛
I hope I’ve inspired some people to keep trying at their art. You may not be the only person on Earth to create a piece, but you’re the only YOU who created it.
With all of the good intentions in the world – Hanna.