There is a fragility in avoiding media similar to art you produce, a difficult isolation to maintain and oft a detriment to your artistic journey. We fear too much that we’ll lose sight of our core ideas, copy those of others. Your concepts are not so weak as to be overrun by the influence of more advanced artists. Instead, they can be elevated, enhanced.
Throughout film school I would often be told my pieces were reminiscent of Lynchian work, and when told that I hadn’t seen any, I’d be directed to watch Twin Peaks or Eraserhead. Having gotten the comment so many times, I became concerned that if I watched this media, my films would lose the sense of ‘me’ that made them so Lynchian and instead be replicas of David Lynch’s work. What I failed to realize is that by watching these shows and movies, I could note what of mine was too accidentally on the nose as well as where areas I was unsatisfied with could be enhanced by a better understanding of the realm of art I was in. I could study the more technical aspects that would make my ideas more concise and be more aware of the ametuer cliches I was incorporating.
We don’t avoid plagiarism by cutting off our consumption of art, our ideas aren’t enhanced by isolating ourselves or striving to keep concepts pure. This is done by being confident in what drives you to create, staying true to what feels right in how you express yourself creatively. Why do you make art? If you can answer this question in any way, you can start to strengthen your conviction. If you have true conviction about your art, you will not plagiarize. Art theft is not done accidentally. The art of others may inspire or influence you, but they too have been inspired and influenced.
To lack your own substance and reuse or improperly incorporate art that is not your own is inappropriate and consciously done. There is wiggle room for proper accreditation and studies, as well as satire, parody, etc, but it’s apparent when there’s no rhyme or reason to the use of another’s art except laziness or lack of personal interest and identity. Recreating a masterwork and properly accrediting can be a perfect exercise in learning technical skill, collage and decoupage often involve the use of pre existing visuals, remixes, fan art, art is often collaborative and recycled but you must learn where the line is drawn. Do you have an in-depth and contextual reason for incorporating other work in your own? Is your own voice still clear in the piece? Are you capable of giving the other creators due credit, involving their name, what work you used, and sometimes where it can be found and how the creator can be supported financially or through exposure? Can you contact them to determine whether they’re comfortable with your use of their work? These questions can help you determine whether you’re being fair and transparent, or if you’re taking immoral shortcuts.
Imposter syndrome and insecurity combined with honest goodness can make us paranoid of copying when we’re merely influenced. We lose some faith in our conviction of our artistic core. Learning from others is difficult when you begin to repress yourself and isolate. I worked on building my confidence in myself so that when I feel that spark of inspiration, I know that it’s the pieces of myself falling into place with the guidance of external sources rather than filling an emptiness with outside substance.
Upon watching Lynch’s work, I developed a better understanding of myself, my art, and the world around me. His motifs and symbolism led me to realize the connected themes in my own past work. I learnt new hemispheres of surrealism and spirituality that had neighboured my own comfort zone, helping me reach further than I thought my limits were.
I aspire to someday influence someone with my art in the same way.