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I read somewhere long ago that copying is the most sincere form of flattery there is! it would seem to me that people get hung up on the subject! ideas appear and disappear every century! If someone is so lacking in talent that they must copy my work line for line then that person is not an artist and should be ashamed!copying in other fields is an entirely different story which is better left to the law!

Well, copying a painting is OK if you know WHY you're doing it i.e. learning how to paint in a particular way/using a medium. Passing it off as your own is another matter. ALTERING it..... as in Mona Lisa with a moustache, top hat, green skin backed by Mount Everest...... and then passing THAT as an original..... and discuss...!!!

Beautiful images! Why would anyone try to speak in some else's voice? Nurturing my own unique creative voice is my priority.

A wise artist once told me "There are very few original ideas left".

I think copying is different from outright stealing. If someone steals your painting down to the last detail you probably have a right to be concerned.

As for copying ideas... you do not own an idea. You can't and never will.

I am always surprised to go back and see a painting from the 1800s that has some element that is the current rage in the painting world.

And if it is a true original idea then keep it to yourself and go apply for copyright on it. Then you can be in a position to defend it.

I have so many ideas that pop into my head I would never get anything done but filling out copyright paper work.

Instead I paint and share and when I see a similar idea, or see an artist friend take that idea and make it something more or something different I am happy to be contributing in some small way.

My big pet peeve are folks who teach technique or teach a particular style and who then complain when students actually go out and use what they learned and sell a piece of art. If you are teaching it, then you are setting it free and you can no longer 'own' it.

There is a reason why companies like 'Coca Cola' do not share the entire recipe and measurements to make their product.

Seth....love the pictures to go with this great essay. The tea bags....swear, I have a mess of them just like that minus the amount of red ones. All those boxes...fabulous!

I've thought a lot about this. And I've often spent energy worrying about being copied. Generally, I just create and let the chips fall where they may, knowing that I am filled with an unlimited amount of ideas. But I also understand that copying is hurtful, not at all fair, and something that can get ya all worked-up.
I love the pictures you used. Can I copy them? Just kidding!

This is a great essay, Seth. It really has gotten me thinking. I am sure I get many ideas from seeing other artists' work, but I always work with them as you said, and find those ideas "filtered through one’s own creativity, approach, skill level, inner emotions, artistic style . . ."
I would truly never want to take something I saw and simply copy it. That just would not suit me or satisfy me.
As for ideas, no one can own them - unless as someone suggested, they have been copyrighted. If I take a class or an idea from another artist and tweak it myself, or even end up teaching my version of it, I will always give the originator of the technique credit. It's the only way I can feel right about presenting my version!
Again, great essay Seth, i love your writing (and your art!) lenna

Wonderful essay, Seth and these photos are really evocative. Just a lot of fuss, I say. I didn't use to feel like that but have come to the conclusion that, as you say, everything is filtered through our own perceptions. The trouble comes when there is dishonesty - and truly, how much of that is there? I share ideas with my students and anyone else I can get to listen. There is no obligation for me to teach, as Christy points out. There is an obligation as a teacher to encourage my students to put their own spin on the techniques and ideas presented. Art is not sacred. It is a powerful process to be shared in any way possible.

I keep a folder of other people work in my pictures. I call it Ideas. If I make something based on one or more of these "ideas" am I copying? I don't feel I am but then I don't call myself an artist. If you don't want your work emulated (copied) don't show anyone!!

Interesting points as ever, Seth. As a poet I am always of conscious of words attributed to Eliot and linked in my mind to Picasso about 'stealing' and 'borrowing' in artistic enterprises. There is an excellent post on the subject ,a href="http://nancyprager.wordpress.com/2007/05/08/good-poets-borrow-great-poets-steal/">here.


Yes, this can be a hot topic. And as a person with very little artistic ability
(paper pusher gluer inker here) I don't like the word crafty either. I think it comes down to the basic things we try to teach our children.
'Be honest about what you are doing and where the ideas come from' especially when you are selling things.
Occasionally I come up with an original, but there is no possible way to say
"I was the first" I hope and expect honesty.
I go to the 'REAL' artist for inspiration.
And am so very grateful for their sharing.

My daughter often gets stuck, trying too hard to think of the perfect original masterpiece, and ends up doing nothing. I often tell her to go ahead and copy something you love...First of all, it is not going to end up exactly like the other one, and secondly, it can get your creativity flowing, and other ideas can branch off of that one.

Interesting points, Seth!

When I was writing fiction for years, one of the issues that would come to light periodically was the fact that everything has already been done. The creative mind strives to write their story in a unique way, which is what makes the story new again to new readers.

I really feel that what makes something a theft, is when the copy-er profits from it. Either monetarily or through accolades. I noticed someone selling another artist's design on an etsy shop and when I talked to the originating artist, she said, yes, but... it's too much time and money to get her to stop. And, if I share a technique with a friend or on my blog, I always make clear where I learned that technique.

I have a great respect for craft. Even multiples of an excellent technique, done with a high level of skill and love, is artful to me. There is a place for multiples in our community. But even if I were following a pattern, I always hold the requirement to make the resulting piece distinctively my own.

Copying is a traditional method of learning in the arts, and I don't see anything at all wrong with it--up to and until the copying party makes a profit without acknowledging their master. Then, it's simply thievery, and the sign of a shallow talent.

fantastic essay, seth and gorgeous photos too! i often think about this as well. i have never taken a live art workshop but have taken a couple online, such as for the purpose of learning to sew. i created a couple of pieces from that workshop and expressed where i had learned my techniques, though quite dissimilar to what was being taught. i still felt awkward selling it so gave those pieces away. when creating new pieces, i personally strive to do things i haven't seen other people do before because there is so much cookie cutter work out there... like the babies with wings "thing", and whatnot. on the other hand, i have had several experiences of people emailing me saying "hey, love loved this piece of yours and created this version of my own..." then they blog about it and don't happen to mention where they got the idea or inspiration. that rubs me the wrong way if they are selling it but if it's a personal piece, i generally feel more flattered -- is that weird?

Wonderful article {and images}and a great conversation.

I recently frustrated a student in a workshop because I didn't give enough "direction". The student asked me for templates on how I make my pages and said that I was asking her to think too much... My teaching philosophy is to lead students to interface with the materials {i.e. This pen + water does this and this one over here is good for use with this paint.} and then encourage the process and discovery that follows. It never occurred to me that someone would take a class and not want to stretch and make their work their very own.

An interesting twist on this topic. Several of my tweets are included with attribution at a popular quote website. Which has been totally fun - what is interesting is that my friends will sometimes copy and paste my tweets and fb status as their own and leave me a note saying something along the lines of, "I stole your fb status because it was so good." Some give credit and some don't. A good friend was delighted to tell me that she had "right clicked" several photos from my site and hung them on her wall.

I don't chase it in that forum but, if someone was making money with one of my articles or photos or replicated my pages, I would no doubt take action.

Have any of you used services like picscout or image rights to track your images online? I often wonder how I would even know if someone was using my original content.

Thanks again for the valuable insights and conversation.

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