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March 11, 2011


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Well, I need to go think a bit about this. Will get back to ya! :-)

michelle ward

TJ - great challenge. We are all dipping from the same waters...many of us see the same magazines, read the same books, visit the same sites, take the same classes, and are aware of styles and trends. It's going to happen that these influences prompt similar work, watering down the pool of originality but eventually one would hope that an artist seeks to pull from the pack and swim on their own.

There are those of us who make mental notes of who-did-what and there are those of us who pay no attention to those details. I think the important thing is to recognize what we see as "ok, that has been done" and determine what we can offer as "new territory" or at least "uniquely mine".

It makes me sad when I see numerous shops on etsy selling similar items and it makes wonder, who is the originator? I prefer to support the Inventor, not the Knock-off.

I just finished writing an article about this subject, called Make It Your Own. I tried not to harp on about rampant duplications, but rather encouraged artists to create work so that the only thing that can be said about it is "that is so YOU".

An interesting topic TJ, and very brave of you to say it out loud and open the dialogue. I hardly consider myself a 'big name' but I appreciate SO MUCH that you think of me as having a summarizable style.


Flat out awesome post. Much food for thought. Love the badge.


Hello :) I just came over after reading your 'Do What You Love' piece and really enjoyed this post. I have had secret thoughts about exactly this for ages. I've done quite a few classes online and find that of course you often end up with work that looks just like the teacher's. I've never wanted to do work that looks like someone else's, and am very conscious of that all the time.

The way I see it, there's such an overwhelming wealth of art and creativity out there you can't not be influenced, but there's room for all of us. I like to look and absorb and learn techniques and try out what other artists are doing, using their brush strokes or colour combinations or whatever, and then pick and choose what resonates for me and turn it into something that is entirely my own. Yes some of my work has recognisable elements of artists I love, but I'm working on it!

I think a lot of the copying that goes on is really just lack of confidence. (I would like to think it's never just capitalising on someone else's success.) It's tempting sometimes to criticise but a lot of people have a lot of fear surrounding their creativity, especially if they are new to expressing it. It's just a case of time and practice. Try it all by all means, and through doing that you can gain the courage to produce work that is just yours.


such a great post, and the topic is one that is much talked about in the art world. I love that you put it out there


Michelle - I LOVE the 80-20 concept. Everything really has been done. This idea makes me personally feel better about the overlap I have in my own stuff. Thank you!

Tara - hello welcome! Thank you so much for commenting. You are right on about unique style coming with experience. Everybody learns from following stuff we are attracted to. My beef comes from those who are selling stuff or offering classes with material that isn't original.

Part of my whole struggle with the entire subject is that I really want to focus on what I'm doing. Not what others are doing. (Keep your eyes on your own paper TJ!!)

But DANG, it's hard!!


This is a thought-provoking post and I think of it often...

It can be hard for those just starting in art/craft to know what their own style truly is and often, as a result of taking classes from some of these amazing artists or others, their work will look like the instructor, unless the instructor is able to convey the learning of TECHNIQUE instead of outright STYLE.

Having been in a class with Kelly Rae as instructor, and knowing her thought's on 'copying', I made sure to glean out what was technique from what was her style of working. This may have been easier for me since I have some formal art training already, but this is not so easy for others =-( especially those with no art background at all. And it does seem that many want to create their own style of "girls with wings", which tends to look tired at this point when it is everywhere =-\ Thanks to Michelle for pointing out that we "are dipping from the same waters"!

With that said, I think it can be hard to create something TRULY original since mixed media has actually been around starting in the late 1800's, when you look at Victorian scrapbooks and at works created by mental ward patients from that time (there are images about the mental wards in my book about Joseph Cornell, the grandfather of mixed media as we know it today - http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Cornell-Kynaston-McShine/dp/3791310631)

There is a reason for the old saying:
"There is nothing new under the Sun"
so while there may not be anything new, there can certainly be INFINITE variations on what we create, just as there are infinite signatures and fingerprints. I think that for those who are just beginning, the non-copying curve will be steeper than for those who have been creating since childhood or those who have formal training behind them.

TJ, Thank you so much for writing about this and opening the topic to discussion no matter the views! I may come back with more thoughts, because there is much to be said on this topic!


Monica- thanks so much for piping up! I'll have to investigate this old grand-daddy of mixed media. Thank you for the link. More books on my wishlist!! LOL.

Deep down, I disagree with that old saying. I want to cling to the hope that everything hasn't been done.

I was about to argue for Hipstamatic as something so brilliantly fresh. But when you think about it, it's really just a twist of transforming digital photos into a style that's old and has already existed. The clever part was inventing a new tool that is compatible with cell phones.

Now I'm challenging myself to try think of something that fully impresses me with it's newness. Probably won't sleep tonight.

C'mon back if you think of more to add! I'm so pleased with the comments. Maybe I've finally written something worth discussing...


TJ, what you mention about Hipstamatic was something I thought of adding - the fact that digital technology finds ways of making old ways of working new...or at least new-er =-)

I know that there can be something new under the sun but look where that newness is coming from - TECHNOLOGY! Even as I write this, Apple is selling new versions of the i-pad and many other companies are jumping on board the tablet bandwagon, but Apple did create something relatively new, though I'm sure there may be a techie out there who can possibly point to a precursor of the tablet that I don't know about, being a relative non-technie, myself =-)

I THINK they were blazing a trail when they created the i-phone and for many years, sci-fi movies would imagine computer screens you could merely touch to get your information and now we have them! But I think that computer technology is some of the really new innovative stuff happening today - even Leslie Riley has used technology to IMPROVE the medium of iron-on transfer which I first encountered, in strict and limited use, back in the mid/late 90's, when I used to help sew pillows for a woman that had her images transferred onto muslin at a local print shop, before it was made available to the crafting public...with the help of TECHNOLOGY, of course!! =-)

As I stated earlier though, I think that there can still be INFINITE variations on what we create and if we dabble in MORE than one medium of working, then the possibilities can truly be infinite and varied =-)

As for your thoughts on those who are selling their work that is not really original, I agree wholeheartedly and a friendly mention of who inspired the work is good manners indeed! There is nothing wrong in stating the source of inspiration for an artwork and many good artists do just that. As a personal example, I was inspired by the work of JSG Boggs and gave him FULL CREDIT in my artist statement, but I know when I created my "Currency of Strength", I was working in my own style =-)

BTW: I personally like to call Joseph Cornell the grandfather of Mixed Media, but even he was influenced by the work of Dali, Picasso and Duchamp and many art historians place Cornell's work in the camps of Dada and then Surrealism, which are also precursors to mixed media art...OOPS! My Art History background is showing!! ;)

Thanks again for beginning this discussion TJ - I think you say many worthwhile things, though I have not been reading here of late to tell you so!


I would love to discuss this more with you- my circle of art friends is small and after taking Kellie's class I was really bothered by this exact topic. But nobody around me really understood!


Hola my dear Germexican classmate! Great to see you here, thank you so much for commenting.

Yeah this is a toughy. I mean, I don't want the job! (Hah ha). But seriously, somehow we've got to find a way to maybe bring some awareness to the subject. I have the utmost respect for the way I've seen KRR deal with some unethical stuff that's happened to her.

I want to propose the idea that most people are doing their best. I've seen stuff on blogs where I cringe but then I think to myself, "maybe the person just doesn't know better."

I want to begin interactions with the assumption that people are coming from a place of goodness...

(I say this all nice and poetically but inside my ears are steaming sometimes.)

Lay Hoon

Such a interesting post, TJ.
I'm going to think deep how am i categorised myself as :)


Hi TJ, I think you're brave for bringing this topic up! I have often had similar thoughts especially since many styles I see on the net - like the many paintings with nice looking, big eyed women, is not the kind of inspiration I'm looking for myself. So I think it's important to go out and visit a variety of museums and exhibitions in real life to expose oneself to different influences and approaches (and then check out their websites of the artists afterwards and discover new inspiration streams). But I remember that Kelly Rae wrote in her Flying Lessons that she thinks it's important to copy the work of other artists to learn from them before you go ahead and develop your own style. But I agree with you, that I would not sell these imitations. But where does one draw the line between imitation and inspiration? And I guess if something sells well there will always be people who try to imitate the product to get their share of the cash flow... I don't think that's ever going to change and an artist who makes a point of being original and expressing her own voice can only stick to producing quality art and I guess many people will acknowledge that and prefer to buy from her.
I don't think this issue will ever be resolved, but I like your approach to put emphasis on being unique and true to oneself. I think a lot of people might need help in finding there own voice and expression though...

Alles Liebe,

Jenny Lee Wentworth

Interesting discussion Tj. Someone once told me, "there is inspiration everywhere and I have to remind myself all the time that really, there are NO new ideas, just new interpretations." I have found that to be very true. I see similarities everywhere even in the work of better known artists. For example: I see Misty Mawn and DJ Pettit in Kelly Rae's work. Hopefully if art really is someone's passion they will find a way to take inspiration and make it their own. It's crazy to see stuff on etsy that is pretty much an exact copy of someone else's creation. I am new to art but I would hope if someone saw my paintings they could say, Oh that looks like Jenny's work. :)


This is certainly a 'hot topic', TJ! I have seen this discussion/argument in one form or another in several places, of late... I love the idea of 'opening with acceptance' and letting new encounters prove themselves -- not always easy *but anything worth doing never is!* I love thought provoking topics, such as this one, that fashion a sense of 'community' for all of us spread so far and wide over the internet! I am a late-comer to your blog; but have SO enjoyed 'hearing your voice' in your posts, and seeing your beautiful work. Keep up the fantastic work!

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