How to Steal Without Stealing

As you know, I had a bit of an existential crisis lately, in that rather than being inspired by an artist I admired, I felt paralyzed. But recently I realized that a lot that paralysis was due to things I had done. See, when I first decided to dive headlong into photomanipulation, I noticed there was a lot of bad photomanipulation out there: lazy, ugly stuff. Stuff where people didn’t take into account scale, proper shading (in other words, that tree casts a shadow…and please don’t add pre-fab drop shadows; they make it look as if your object is actually emerging from the canvas), color harmony, etc. So anyway I made all these rules for myself: Scale must always be perfect. Shading must always be perfect (and realistic!). And making photomanipulations became about seeing how closely I could adhere to those rules. It began to suck a lot of joy out of the process of making art. I remember I had more fun with digital art when it was more about just putting pretty things–things that were pleasing to my eye– together to create an even prettier thing.

I digressed a bit. This post was really supposed to be about how to steal from people without really stealing from. See, I was so blown away by this piece:

that when I got over my initial paralysis, I decided to take inspiration from it.  What did I take from it? Well, one really literal thing: the frame (and oh, yeah, the use of fabric). But I also took from it its textural elements. I’d forgotten what it was like to work with texture.

So, anyway, I made this:

I wanted the tulle to resemble waves…and can you find the goldfish?

As you can see, I took those elements and made something that doesn’t resemble the above piece in the least. Hell, it doesn’t even have the same mood (mostly because the artist is big on themes of death and decay and me, notsomuch).

I bring this up because people have imitated my stuff and basically it was just straight-up copying me. I don’t like that. So naturally I don’t want to do that to artists who inspire me. The lesson here is take elements from people you like and to put YOUR spin on them. Even if you’re not nearly as successful as the artist you’re taking from.

For the record, I don’t like my piece nearly as much as decrepitude‘s. It’s not as dark, it’s not as surreal, it’s more static, more closed-in, like I’m not still not letting go…but it was an important step for me in loosening up and putting love and adventure back into my art.


26 thoughts on “How to Steal Without Stealing

  1. I have a long, elaborate argument that "stealing" is not possible in the digital realm. This intellectual and philosophical position has evolved over many years going back to the invention of the MP3 file format and Napster. It makes extensive use of Lawn Mowers as analogy for commercial goods.In short, misappropriation of digital IP can be wrong, it can be unethical, we can even make it illegal. But it cannot be 'stealing'…

  2. I think that goldfish is irradiated.One comment though. On the inspiration, the oblique angle makes it more obvious that the painting is kind of pushing into the third dimension. On the slayer piece, the frontal view makes it look a little more like the woman is just sitting in front of the painting.

  3. Well, that's usually not what's intended. If you're going surreal and that's what's intended, perfect. Also, it can make your object look one-dimensional. Again, if that's your aim, perfect.

  4. Smut Clyde only likes poorly-done woodcuts. Note to self: moar pornographic woodcutsThey're escaping the painting!Next week you will find them all dried up and dusty, under the dresser.~Nah, they'll just migrate to another one of my pieces. Let's hope it's one with water!

  5. I don't like my piece nearly as much as decrepitude's.[between you and me, I have the same problem. I take inspiration where I get it, I use it to draw or design buildings, and then I get done, and it never matches what I seen in my brane, or what I see other people do. And I get bitter, and throw my markers out the window. Then think better of it, go out and get them, and then throw the PAPER out the window. And then I receive an award and throw THAT out the window. And then I try the fuck again, because I am nothing if not stubborn.And kind of stupid.]

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