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All artists influenced by original art

What is original art? How do artists get their inspiration? What happens when several artists have the same inspiration? Are they copying each other or just being inspired by the same things or even each other? These are all questions artists and makers ponder often. I am not sure there are cut and dry answers, but I do have some thoughts on the matter.

Andi Bedsworth

Inspiration is everywhere: television, in nature, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, at the library, in the store, and just about anywhere we go. It makes sense that more than one person would be inspired by the same images, ideas and subject matter. I think sometimes this need to be the only one who has an idea comes from our insecurities that we as artists will somehow not get the “credit” or “payment” we deserve for our work if someone else is doing similar things.

As an artist, I totally get this feeling, and some of it has to do with how challenging we feel it is to make a living in the art industry. I am wondering though if shared inspiration really does affect our viability as artists. If we are really distilling the ideas and making them our own, it seems to me our work will be uniquely ours and that even if someone copied it, it would not be the same as our work. I know this is not always the case as there is a history of professional forgers making money off of copying great works of art. But this is not what I am referring to. I am referencing the fact that sometimes I think I am “making up” a technique only to see someone else doing the same thing. However, it is never quite the same as art is always personal and the artist’s touch is undeniably present in the work.

Often, people at galleries will ask if they can take a photo of something on the wall. While some artists do not like this, I generally do not mind if someone wants to photograph my work. Even if they copied it, it would not be their work.

The years I have spent learning how to stitch, manipulate fabric, and combine color, cannot be replicated in quite the same way by someone else just like I cannot copy an oil painting done by someone else with the same mastery because I do not have that skill set, nor do I have their exact hands. I am glad my work inspires them.

The idea of copyright infringement is one that is a hot topic in the art and design world and always will be, but the truth is we all are inadvertently influenced by everything we see and this informs our work. “We are only as good as our research,” according to one of my favorite teachers. And research does not have to be formal. We are “researching” every time we wake up and look at the world.

Andi Bedsworth is owner of Art To Go, which brings free art opportunities to children in the community.