The theft of artistic expression is a common theme among artists. I’ve had conversations with many friends about what they think is and isn’t acceptable in the way of copying or plagiarism in art. One of my friends had to hire a lawyer to get someone to stop selling the exact same jewelry design. I’ve had a friend ask me what I was writing about for an article for a magazine, then miraculously write a piece with the same thesis and submit it to the same magazine, making me look like the copier. A unique friend of mine had a friend start dressing exactly like her, styling her hair in the same exact cut and color, and suddenly she no longer had a fun friend she simply had a lot in common with, but was looking in a mirror. And a florist friend creates some of the most original breathtaking floral arrangements, then gets copied by high profile artists, who then get the credit.
But the line is a blurred one, because we’ve all been living in the same world, with the same ancient poets and writers and painters. Try to create something entirely original and it’s impossible. You’ve seen it before. Unless you lived under a rock your whole life and suddenly picked up a paintbrush there is no conceivable way you’d be able to create something new. I’ve copied the styles of my favorite artists countless times, trying to make it my own but loving a color scheme or a brush stroke that I saw worked well. And if Keats were alive and one of my friends today, I’d have a lot of explaining to do for my romanticism tendencies. Look at Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac. You can hardly tell their paintings apart, and during their time there was a bit of a jealous rivalry going on. Edmund on the left, Arthur on the right:
Some things you have to just let go of. Copying is the highest form of compliment, they say. With Flora Forager it’s almost been like a fun workshop we’ve all been playing around in online. Floral art is new and exciting and if someone else makes something similar to me then, great, we’re having fun with the same idea.
And some things are genuinely thought of at the same time. I wrote a book a couple years ago about moth fairies who weave magic carpets. Come to find out, there’s already been a book written with the same premise! Some of my friends say that even if someone steals an idea, no two people can write it the same way. “No one can be just like me anyway,” as Pink sings on the radio. As much as I would like to think I am the only one who comes up with something, I am proven time and time again that that is impossible.
And the copiers are also an important cog in the creative wheel…if you want to stay relevant and growing, you’re going to have to come up with new ideas. There’s no room for stagnant water in the creative life. You gain tantalizing ideas and new expression when the zeitgeist flood rushes in. Time to reinvent, try something new, and come up with a new idea. There is nothing new under the sun, but you can learn to keep a few eggs in your basket, secret from the world until publication. I’ve sort of learned that the hard way but I truly think the copiers are a part of life. I can be aggravated by an idea being stolen, or I can say…hey! I’ve got another idea! and move on. It’s not an easy thing, but frustration can be the spark that fuels the creative force. Eventually it will become obvious who’s shining with talent, and who’s glittering with fool’s gold.