It’s hard to know what to think or do when you come across another artist’s work that looks a bit too much like your own. In some cases the work is an outright theft – little more than a replica of your artwork that the artist has passed off as his own.
But what about the more nuanced similarities we see between works of art? How do you think about artwork you come across that is not an outright copy but feels inspired by your own? Sometimes the reaction can be one of anger or panic, but I think there are some important points to consider…
+ Artwork can look very similar and yet be unrelated.
Two people can arrive at the same place having taken different paths. I’ve been convinced an artist (let’s call her Artist A) was highly influenced by another artist (Artist B) only to discover that artist A had never heard of the artist B. Sometimes the explanation is that both artists were influenced by another artist (Artist C). Other times different influences and backgrounds bring artists to a similar place.
+ All art references older art, and there are a lot of references.
The history of art is quite old. If you think you’re doing something totally new, you’re probably wrong. There were probably others doing the same thing before you.
+ Don’t assume you are the one to have inspired the artist.
This relates to the previous point. If you think you’re the only one making a certain type of art, do some research and make inquires with some respected art professionals. You may find you have company. And they might have influenced the artist, not you.
+ You may have inspired the artist unconsciously.
How many images do we see a day? Too many to fully absorb and process, yet we are all influenced by these images and messages, even those that aren’t consciously processed in the brain. The more time an artist spends scrolling through images on flickr or Pinterest, the more likely it is that they are unconsciously influenced by these images. One of those images might be your work.
+ Yes, you may have inspired the artist consciously.
If the artist is respectful then this is OK.
To finish up…
*There is never an excuse for copying someone’s work.
*If you’re not sure what it means to be respectful of the artists you admire then do some reading or ask other artists.