“Good artists borrow, great artists steal”
Memorable words by either T.S. Eliot or Pablo Picasso – maybe one stole the quote from the other.
The bottom line is that it is human nature to copy and steal, then build on that and create something new and better.
A book I really enjoyed reading a year or two ago was Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon. He says that everything we do is a mash-up, so don’t be afraid to take a little from here, a bit from there and find yourself and your own voice as you copy, copy, copy. Here are a few rules he cites in the process, though.
What inspired this post, though, is a podcast from NPR that I subscribe to called the Ted Radio Hour and last week’s episode was about originality. What is Original? The episode mostly deals with inventions, music and fashion, but incorporating the visual arts can easy apply here. I highly recommend listening to this podcast; it is entertaining and eye opening.
My Mash-Up Breakdown
I do this too! I steal and copy and mix it up. If I didn’t I would stare at my blank canvas all day long and never get anything done. It is terribly intimidating and so you have to have something in your head to start you off.
I am so excited to show you what I am doing with my mix-up that I am going to show you a painting I’m not even done with yet.
The internet has been my biggest artist resource! Having my tablet right next to me with Pinterest open or my Google Drive files from the media I’ve manipulated in Photoshop has been extremely valuable.
First the Buddha statue. I got the image off Pinterest, then when I decided on the color scheme I was going to work with, I took the image into Photoshop, cropped out most the stuff except the statue, and took out a lot of the detail with a filter. Then I colored it with the basic color I’m going to use in the painting.
The tree and leaves outside are from a Japanese woodcut print from Hiroshige called Maples at Mama.
I simply did a Google image search, found one I like, then I took it into Photoshop, reversed the image and cropped out everything but the leaves, about a third of the image. Since the picture of my painting was taken, I’ve since filled in the background behind the leaves and it looks fantastic. I’m not sure yet if the tree trunk is going to look like the ones in the original print. The purple mauve tone will go well with my color scheme, so it’s a definite possibility.
The haiku with the Japanese calligraphy was taken from a library book of ancient Zen poems and haikus. I scanned the calligraphy image, and then printed it on fine tissue-like stationery paper.
The haiku reads:
I’m a wind bell
Hung from the eaves;
Whether I ring or not,
Depends on the wind.
Well, my painting doesn’t show the bell hanging from the eaves, but from a tree branch. That’s OK though, the bell belongs where it is. You can’t see it in this photo but I’ve since layered the haiku with tea papers and outlined the writing again in india ink, to make it stand out and look aged. I think it looks great!
The floor had a big blank spot in it, and I was unsure what to put in it. Then I was looking at my Dharma Crafts catalog. They make Buddhist meditation supplies, and I saw a photo that included a brass bell and mallet on a cushion. It was on a tatami mat floor next to this cool looking dresser. I wasn’t so much interested in the dresser as I was the floor, the coloring and how the bowl and cushion looked on the floor. So I stole that bit of imagery for my painting and you can see how it is incorporated into the composition.
I can’t wait to show you how this painting looks when I’m done. But you see how my mixed up mash up of creativity has led me to an original work of art that is cohesive and is going to look down right fantastic, and give you a state of peace and calm.
Here is my finished painting. Learn more about it here and see more up close detail shots.