Wednesday, January 14, 2009

the problem with artists

this post is from my blog last year.  i think it's a good one so here it is again...

i love other artists and get so much inspiration from their work, attitude, methods and history. i love learning about how they work, what inspires them and how they see the world. in turn, i love sharing with other artists how i work, what inspires me and what makes me tick. if i can inspire someone else to express themselves through art, i am a happy camper.

the problem with artists is... the threat of competition.

i recently went to the blues fest here and visited the artisans after the show. i saw a wonderful local glass artist who did incredible jewelry with a similar feel to my bubble bliss pendants. i was chatting with him, asking some questions about his art and complimenting his work. after asking about firing temperatures because he wants to make a kiln, my husband adam mentions that i'm also an artist and points out my pendant hanging from my neck. instantly the gentleman stiffened and was very hesitant to answer any more questions. it made us sad to have made him feel so uncomfortable. it's a scenario that's happened to me many times when other artists feel i may be a threat, especially at art shows.

so here's my outlook on art and competition:

no one likes being copied directly. uniqueness is something most of us strive for, especially artists, so it's a bit of an intrusion on our personal space when we see someone else emulating what we call our own. this was something i struggled with as a wee one trying to establish who i am. no matter how much people said "copying is a strong form of flattery" it still bothered me to be copied.

as i grew, i realized that no matter how much someone copies me, i'm still unique in my whole package. each of us is made up of a unique recipe of experiences, outlooks, personality, skill etc. that no one can possibly produce the same results given the exact same project and materials.

to practise this growing up, my equally creative friend, cara and i used to play a drawing game. we would get one of our moms to write a list of 50 objects or actions on a piece of paper then cara and i would draw a scene with each of the objects incorporated. we'd do the drawing separately and then see what the other came up with when we were finished. it was always so interesting to see how we interpreted the same project. we would complement each other's creativity and mention points of inspiration for the next project. we gained a lot from each other by sharing ideas and techniques that worked for us. today, we still have incredibly different styles.

as a full-time artist in business, i completely understand trade secrets and have a few of my own. using unique supplies or tools, personalized formulae or programs - they're important to your edge in business.

i work really hard at researching supplies, experimenting with tools and various media, using different techniques to achieve special affects. combine all of this and you have me, crazy bliss. i am confident that no other artist will use the exact same combination of any of the materials, techniques, imagination and tools to achieve the same results. there is very little i will not share with a fellow artist in business.

i get a lot from the artists who are willing to share. i try very hard not to ask questions that intrude on trade-secrets and am respectful if they don't want to share something specific. i've gotten so much inspiration to do my own variations of other artist's ideas that end up looking nothing like the original. i've ended up with a very nice circle of artsy friends as a result of sharing and i love seeing what everyone comes up with from common ideas.

of course it makes my heart skip a beat when i see something VERY similar to a piece i've done but as i mentioned a few posts ago, attitude is everything and i just keep my nose to the art table and keep doing what it is that i do that makes me me. even if someone copies me outright, eventually it will adapt into their own style or they'll fall away all together. feeling threatened takes a lot of joy out of the art experience for me.

the world is a big place and it's a nicer place when we share and encourage rather than feeling threatened.

that's my view and i'm sticking to it!


JoJoBell said...

I agree. Yet it is still hard not to feel a little protective over your own style. I find sharing so much fun that the threatened feeling melts away. Great post, thanks for sharing!

all that glitters said...

i couldn't agree more.

Darlene Martin said...

such a wonderful post! your blog has been bookmarked!

Rhonda said...

I agree with you sooo much! It is important to feel confident in your work. Blatant copy cats can be infuriating and intimidating and annoying! But it isn't healthy to dwell on it; that would zap your confidence and your creativity too. So when it comes to art, we need to just do our own thing and get on with it, don't we?

Ragtree said...

First, I want to say I LOVE your blog as much as your shop and I'm so glad I found you!

Second, I have fallen into the trap of trying to create what I thought was popular and my work showed it... it was lackluster, uninspired, and BLAH. I think anyone who tries to deliberately knock someone off will fail. Other than that, you are so right when you say that it is great to say what artists do with a theme or idea when they put their imaginations and heart into it.

I will be back to visit you often!

Renee :)