Posted tagged ‘originality’

Make Good Art speech by Neil Gaiman

December 31, 2013

With my recent feelings of being a bit blocked, this was an amazing speech to listen to at the end of one year and the beginning of a new one. No, I’m not blocked, I’ve just been caught up in paying bills, and completing chores, and trying to do things that everyone else says I should do. Life isn’t always easy, but at the end of the day, or perhaps the beginning, we should do at least one thing – make good art! Thank you Neil Gaiman for your good words.




Where Does Appropriation Start?

October 10, 2008

Chris Tyrell writes some useful and thought provoking articles in the Visual Arts Newsletter published by Opus Framing & Art Supplies.  This month he tackled the question of appropriation and it struck a chord with me, especially since I have been thinking a lot about original creative ideas.

As I said before, there are so many ideas out in the world already that it is terribly hard to have a pure, original thought these days. So where does one draw the line between copying someone else’s work as a whole and using some parts of it to merge with other parts to create something new? Could we not say that Andy Warhol was appropriating the Campbell’s Soup image when he made screenprints of the cans in 1968? ( As an aside, it is interesting to note that I know the name Andy Warhol, but I do not know the name of the person who first designed the label for Campbell’s Soup.) 

Chris Tyrell in his article uses the example of non-native carvers who carve using the language of the Kwakiutl style. They were taught by a First Nations artist. Their work was not directly copied, but it was very similar. I agree with Mr. Tyrell who said these carvings should not be sold or exhibited. This is just like how I was encouraged in art school to copy the ‘Masters’ as a tool for learning, but I would never sell or exhibit my copy of a Picasso. Yet there are artists who show their copies of historical art, such as Lucy Hogg’s show at the Vancouver Art Gallery many years ago. I quite liked her paintings. But how close to appropriation are her interpretations of famous paintings? How far does one have to change the original, before their new work can be seen as original?

Then there is the whole debate over cultural appropriation? I have been witness to many heated discussions about non-natives using First Nations imagery. Is it okay that the French Impressionists looked to Japanese prints for inspiration? Or Picasso looked to African masks? Modern art would look a lot different if we never had those mergings of cultures. Emily Carr’s copies of First Nation designs are displayed in the Vancouver Art Gallery on a regular basis. Her paintings I believe are quite original in style, but what about her ceramic pieces that directly copy First Nation designs? Is this appropriation? They are in a gallery because the artist is now famous. But what if I were to produce something similar?

So many questions pop into my head about appropriation. I have barely touched on it in these few paragraphs. This will be an ongoing issue for me to address in my own art as I try to create something new, but also reference the work of others, because I can’t help but be inspired by them.

The Difficulties of Original Creative Ideas

September 22, 2008

Last week I discovered that 2 lines of a song I’d written were exactly the same as an already existing song by a different writer. It’s not in my music collection and I don’t remember hearing it anywhere lately, but somehow I wrote 2 lines into my own song.

As an artist I have trouble coming up with original ideas, and I am far from being alone in this. Society values original ideas precisely because they are not easily achieved. Even for the purposes of writing this I am not wholly original: I turn to the web to find quotations on the subject, to use the thoughts of others as fuel for my own.

We are all born originals – why is it so many of us die copies?” Edward Young. Ever look at a 4 year old’s crayon drawing and see the work of a genius? Or are you the type of person who tells the child their cat should have 4 legs not 2, and the grass should be green, not purple? Beatrix Potter once said “Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.” In our post industrial world conformity seems to be more prevalent than originality. Do not most people choose the route of sameness rather than originality often because they fear being ridiculed, shunned, cast out of the collective group? We are taught everything, from what clothes to wear to what lifetime goals we should achieve.

During our current information age is it even harder to have original ideas? “Many a man fails as an original thinker simply because his memory is too good.Friedrich Nietzsche. We see so much of what others have done our own minds are clogged. No doubt we got to this point in history by taking the ideas of others and building on them, but I can’t help feeling defeated when I think I have an original idea only to find on the internet many others who have it too.

So after my discovery of unintentional copying last week I went and wrote new lines, and the rest of my song is still original as far as I know. It still brings me joy, and I hope others will enjoy it too. For now that’s what matters, because in a world where so much has already been said and done “originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself.James Stephen. If many others think what I create is fresh and new, and if it stirs some emotion in them, then I am satisfied that my job as an artist has been well done.