This is probably a subject we've touched upon before on the blog, but it's worth repeating. I also hope that my views on this will perhaps help other artists to think differently about this topic, although of course it's always going to be a contentious and upsetting issue.
The Ghosts of Their Departed Leaves 4
© Natasha Newton 2012
[ This piece is unrelated to the topic of the blog, but I just thought you'd like to see one of the new birds I've created for the upcoming solo show, 'Ground & Sky' :) ]
I responded to an email in my inbox today from a kind person (with only the best of intentions) who I don't know, but who has apparently been following my work for some time. This person had written to me because she had discovered another artist on Etsy who she felt was copying my work "mind-blowingly closely". She gave me a link to the work, and it didn't surprise me that this was the same person a few other people have also contacted me about recently. There are other people who I'm told are copying too, but this particular person comes up again and again.
Not so long ago, I would have been upset and furious at this. I would have written to the person doing the copying, and it would probably have resulted in several hours of back-and-forth emails, where they deny copying my work, and I try to explain to them why it's so upsetting and why they shouldn't do it. And guess what? While I'm spending my time and energy dealing with this, becoming more frustrated and upset as each email arrives in my inbox, what is the one thing I'm not doing with that precious time? Creating new work, that's what. Or building my career and business in a positive way. Or putting my feet up with a cup of tea, some chocolate, and a celebrity gossip blog, that's what. (We all have to have our guilty pleasures.)
So, how do I handle situations like this now?
A wise person once told me that if you create something worthwhile, people will always try to copy it. But that's all they are: copies of my work. They can never create MY work in the way I make it, and THEIR work will never be original and personal in the way mine is. It will be a poor imitation, like - as someone on twitter this morning so succinctly put it - "a knock-off Gucci".
I've spent years practising my art, refining my technique, finding subject matter that means something to me, and painting it in a way that I hope is as unique as I am as a person. When I paint I'm trying to communicate something to others that comes from my heart or my experience - it's part of the life I've had up to this point. Each painting is very personal to me, and although I am (of course) inspired by other artists, I will only ever use their work as a starting block to create something meaningful of my own. It could be that they've used a particular colour combination that inspires me, or a subject that sparks an interest to create my own interpretation, or perhaps they're using materials in a way I hadn't thought of before. That's inspiration, not copying. I fail to see how people who copy directly can feel good about the work they create as a result. To me, it is hollow and without personal meaning, which is what good art is supposed to be about.
Anyway, let's get back to the wise person. They advised me that the best thing to do was to not spend my time chasing and dealing with the copiers, but to move forward and keep creating new work, developing new ideas - in other words: create and innovate. The copiers will only ever be playing 'catch up'. I've tried to stick to this ever since I was given the advice, and I can honestly say I'm much happier (and producing a lot more work!) as a result.
I hope this blog is helpful to some of you. Comments are welcome, even if your opinion differs greatly to mine, but please try to keep them polite and respectful. Thanks. x