Can You Prevent Inspiration to Cause Mimicry?

It has to be said, that in terms of learning and growing, nothing speaks against mimicry. In fact you´ve learned in school and everywhere that copying in the name of study seem to be helpful, to some extent.

Fact is that copying can lead to quite usable results, but it skips the part that is called understanding.
Understanding on the other hand is important to know what´s possible and what not.

This post is for reader @Galendara, who inspired me to do a post about this topic. In this blog post I will bring light to some mechanics that keep us from achieving our goals.

First: To fully understand you need to find out where you are. Make a map.
If you are not fully aware where you stand with your "art", you cannot measure if you´re becoming better at what you do. Its also vital that the aspect of understanding what inspires you and your art becomes more attention. Otherwise the confidence in your abilities will shrink over time.

To better illustrate this aspect, I will explain it with a comparison:

Lets say you learn to play the guitar: Before you´ve ever played a note, rock-songs were just great and the mainstream bands seemed so unreachable. After a few lessons where you learned the basics and some chords you can replay some of the songs you liked so much. After a year you can play along with over 20 of your favorite rock songs, since they consists of only 3-4 chords. In art there is a similarity.

If you can depict your position in the map precisely, you have a decent advantage, this illustration describes it very good. The ladder to artistic success is top -and bottomless.

How art looks to a "non-artist"

Above: To a non artist all art looks great, with no exception. Nothing to worry about. This is how art looks from a recipients point of view who has nothing to do with the creation part.

An artists view of art

Wherever you are in the process of developing your abilities, the above illustration shows how you see things, when you dive into the matter of creating art. You are inevitable accessing the ladder to success, it will never change. Even if you reach the stage of being a very great and always inspiring artist, you´ll have a list of inspiration that you´ll never be able to touch. But its important to find your own way of describing art into these 4 (or more) categories.

Start sorting art like a curator

In order to develope your own style you must first define what you like and what not.
This is the hardest part.
It helps to put yourself into the shoes of a curator, a decisionmaker.

If you run a gallery based on art you like, you´d have to find gems.
In fact, you better be an Otaku to find these. To be a great artist you need to be an even better curator.
Curator is not a profession that can be studied, it is something that comes from observation. And luckily this ability can be trained.

Develop the curator in you

Unfortunately there is no shortcut for doing so.
The only thing you can do is to be active in art communities or visit a lot museums and galleries and make notes about works you like and why so.
Deviantart has a great potential in delivering a big quantity of images depending on your flavor directly to your messagecenter.

If you make it to your daily routine to go through your deviantwatch, the chances are good that over time you find yourself in this position of sorting images out like in the above illustrated manner.

You don´t need a background in art history to be a great artist

Most curators have a background in art or art history. If your goal is to be a better artist, your background can be replaced by the obsession of an Otaku. But you don´t necessarily need a professional background in art history.

You just need to develope a flavor and the ability to say what you like and why. And even more important: you need to internalize the process of separation to rely on it within a split second.

How to measure successful art?

Luckily we live in times where success in all of its facettes can be measured!
If you make use from services like deviantart to watch other artists work, its a good idea to focus on the works that are featured as a Daily Deviation or that find great recognition in the community, by exploring other "admired artists" -favorites folders.

Deviantart has a nice way of tracking and measuring success of art and artists, with public statistics.
If you can read the statistics quite good, you can easily separate authentic art from a copycats work.

In general I tend to compare the basic stats:

  • Image views: If its a great image that is featured than it has anything from 10k views up to 100k.
  • Favorites: this is the more interesting stat; how many people find it that great, that they feature it on their profile page?
  • Comments: Its not that measurable than views and favorites, but within the 100-500 comments under a great or featured work can be gems of feedback that exactly points out what some people like in a piece and what not.
  • Even better is critique, but since this feature isn´t used very much, its rare to find good critique there.

Note: Depending on your taste and preferred style of art, these stats can differ, its important to find out what statistics define the bottom and top of your favorite style of art and start to measure art inbetween this data.

The next step is to find out if this featured work is just a lucky number the artist has thrown on the table by happy accident, or is he/she able to put up such a great work on a regular basis?

The Profile: There are a lot stats too, like pageviews and community activity that gives a short overview about the authenticity of the artist. The gallery which can be even customized to be a portfolio reveals more about the artists work and the consistent quality.

Then it is important to find a conclusion: Is this artist doing art for a living, just for fun, still studying.
These are aspects that make me decide if  I want to follow/watch someone or not.

Still the question is: how to prevent inspiration to cause mimicry?

Worst answer ever: This is something every emerging artist has to find out by themselves. A constant overflow and lack of confidence in your own art can lead to a creative block.

Sometimes we are inspired and feel motivation to get back to "our work" to reach the next level. But sometimes the inspiration is accompanied by frustration, anger and stress which causes us to feel bad about the otherwise good inspiration. A typical scenario for the latter, is that you find the artist is too good and you could never reach such a level of professionalism, etc.

The positive thing is: this is all mentally. But it depends on our ability to sort inspirative art into the categories mentioned before. This helps to say: "OK, here am I, this is possible yet, this is what I want to achieve within the next 12 month."

Viewing other peoples art this way is important to your health too.
Everyone has a diferent pace to accomplish things, here´s a post about finding your own pace.

Another thing that decides how good you are in sorting inspiration, is the ability to let go.
Letting things go is a key skill and will be a hot topic for an upcoming post, so stay tuned.
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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


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