The Difference Between Inspiration and Influence

Not just recently I was confronted with the subject of inspiration or influence and besides determining it for the video tutorial in which I shortly wrote something about that matter, I also wanted to get closer to the specific differences, or better said: what is the difference between inspiration, influence or even a copy?

OK, simply put, I don´t think there is much to say about copy in terms of artistic expression, copy means copy, copying something existing either for the purpose of learning or stealing for whatever else reason but the result will never be something original.

The difference between inspiration and influence is far more difficult;
I will not cite Wikipedia here, I´d rather share my own view about that matter and invite you to discuss in the comment section.

I see inspiration as something that can´t be grabbed, a holy grail if you´ll call it so, the untouchable artistic spirit also referred to as muse, if you watch the video tutorial on or the image to the above - one can see some inspirations from Clive Barker, the band Tool, The movie Pan´s Labyrinth and Brom.
These are indeed inspirations, but not necessarily influences, they have rather fleetingly had a remark on the development and the desired outcome.

For those of you interested in the process of the image, the video below is a teaser cut to roughly 5 minutes that you could spend while reading the rest. I´d appreciate if you will head towards the full length and of course free video tutorial here

I think there is nothing wrong with "being inspired" or "being influenced", in fact the opposite is true. Sometimes it makes it easier for art-buyer, other artists or just interested parties, friends or co-workers where you as an artist come from.
But I´d like to differentiate between these two terms very strong, because influence can be a bitch if you´re as artist too much in love with another artists work, yes even the reason that you started to paint like a maniac, the result is a one sided and very easy to recognize style, that will put you in a drawer sooner or later. I was in that trap in very early years and it took a long time until I found out how to fix that: with inspiration.

"If it were about chemicals, I´d describe influence as toxic and inspiration ephemeral."

Inspiration can be everything, a model pose, a wonderful song, a commercial, watching leafs on a tree, you name it. But influence is in an artists case almost comparable to a stamp, like an exquisite evening at the discotheque for example, however the stamp cannot be removed that easily and its also that important to know where you are coming from and heading towards as an artist.

Because that way you can leave the path, tryout things and come back to the roots at every time, but its definitely important to not just copy or learn from one person alone, exactly as it is in school to have different teachers who have different approaches in teaching things.

To the left I have put my "influence-map" on deviantArt you can find in the artist-description something more relevant info´s about each artist in detail, while these are my roots, inspiration can take over and help me explore absolutely new paths and ways to redefine whats possible.

These are also just artistic influences, music and writing are nice too, but people behind all that and in general have an even bigger effect. I´d say even quotes have a big influence, well at least they help to keep the head up in tough times.

When it comes to mind-popping quotes or making the brain-bend, I highly suggest some inspiring words from Oscar Wilde, Bruce Lee, Steven Wright and Randy Pausch, below I´ll just post some that I find very thought-provoking.

There are for sure others that might be inspiring, please feel welcome to share your favorites as well! What quotes or authors would you put in big letters on your desktop wall?

Oscar Wilde: "Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative!"

Bruce Lee: "If you are being in critique, you have done something right, a player will only attack another one who has the ball."

Steven Wright:
“To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.”

Randy Pausch:
"You’ve got to get the fundamentals down because otherwise the fancy stuff isn’t going to work."

If you have a look on deviantArt searching for "influence map"  you´ll find a lot visual input and its clear that not one artist is without influence, it just depends if you "stick to your roots" or if you "branch out and explore", what type are you? I think I´m a little bit of both.

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Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook


  1. Anonymous4/16/2014

    Mr Wetter,

    Thank you so much for your post. I am not much familiar with art, regretfully. When I do take the time to appreciate art, I do find great solace in the moment.
    I have been dealing with internal conflict on the very topic of influence vs inspiration for a couple of years. I teach at a university in the south east. In my lecture series, I have been prompted to teach inspiration in place of influence.
    I have debated this very topic with others and I am usually dismissed as influence is a synonym for inspiration and vice versa.
    Definitively speaking from the recognized and publicly accepted versions of dictionaries' the two words are very different.
    Influence is a stylus of persuading, motivating and giving direction.
    Inspiration is noted as being the same with one exception. The source of inspirations are invoked by a supreme deity, supernatural being or God.
    Humans can provide influence without God. I debate however, humans can not be recognized for inspiration if the product of their work is not rooted with a higher power.
    The quotes you refer to in your article would serve as an illustration of influence and not inspiration.
    The exception would be if the quotes, by definition would have originated by an invocation of God or whomever that person would recognize as God.
    I really do enjoy your work that is posted in the beginning of the article.
    I hope greater success continues to find you.


    1. Jonathan,thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my article, much appreciated.
      In art and especially as practicing artist it is definitely a whole different thing and anyone burdened with an influence will agree. You can imagine it like a kind of earworm, you just don´t have it in your mind all day, but it shows up when you draw somewthing and suddenly everything you draw or paint looks like from someone else - even worse if people who know the other artists recognise it as well. That´s why I labelled influence as toxic and it can take ages to get rid of it. My personal goal is to keep that demon far away and just smell on inspiration as it allows so much more to come up with unique and new ideas. And I can however just speak about that topic as an artist, but am open for any other interpretation or perspective, thanks for sharing your perspective with me!
      All the best,

  2. Anonymous9/14/2014

    can u help me regarding the difference between inspiration and topic?

    1. which topic? If you can specify more, I can try and answer in a useful manner.

  3. Anonymous7/09/2015

    My opinion might be a little naive but after reading the article, I feel that 'influence', is a person being moved emotionally by another person whereas 'inspire', is a person being moved emotionally by another person's artwork.

    e.g "Leo was influenced by Mike"
    "Don was inspired by Raph's artwork"

    1. Thanks for your comment! That is also a viable comparison. The more someone is moved by the person, the more influence his work has on the one being influenced. The impact might be the same as the inspiration that came from the same person - but one might change the path of someone, the other a particular piece. How is that in line with your theory?



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