Imitation Is Not A Form of Flattery

The other day, a colleague tells me she’s just seen some work ‘exactly’ just like mine. ‘Oh really?” I say, politely (whilst thinking something else entirely).
“Where did you see it?” I ask her.
“Along Southwark Street, I think,” she replies.
“Which gallery?”
“I don’t know if it was a gallery as such,” she says.
“Well, what then?”
“I don’t know precisely – I only saw it from the top of the bus.”
“Yes, but were they linocuts?”
“Well, like I said, I was on the bus, and it was going fast and I didn’t have my glasses on.”

Really though, this whole copying thing is a bit of a nightmare – using someone else’s images is just plain wrong. Of course, there can be a fine line between using another person’s work as inspiration and copying it – but often, that ‘personal interpretation’ might not be personal enough.
And be honest, there’s not a lot you can do about it, short of challenging them to a paint-off – artists have always borrowed from each other and always will.

Paul Catherall was asked the other day on Twitter if a current poster featuring Battersea Power Station was one of his. His answer was, “not me though does look similar. Still, I don’t have patent on Battersea (much as I’d like!) ;-)”.
Absolutely. When you’re using actual places as the starting point for your work, you have to be relaxed about it – I didn’t invent the London Underground, more’s the pity.

And, looking on the bright side, you know you’ve arrived when other artists start to copy you, right? They wouldn’t bother if your work was rubbish…..

6 thoughts on “Imitation Is Not A Form of Flattery

  1. Well, yes, of course I've heard of Cyril Powers – he was a marvellous printmaker and I'm a great fan of his work. He did a couple of fine images of the Tube and they were also linocuts but I think to be honest that's where the similarity ends.
    I could mention Edward Bawden, whose work I also greatly admire. He did a series of linocuts of London stations – so have I. Does that mean in your book that I've also copied his work?
    I could go on but the point I was trying to make was that there is a difference between copying someone else's work (and passing it off as your own) and making your own interpretation of the subject – there's a distinction surely?

  2. Dear Gail, I know exactly what you are talking about as it has happened to me really close to home and it is extremely unpleasant the only thing I can say is that I truly believe if your work has not come from your heart then it has very little integrity. As practising artists I hope this is the thing that will bring us our success….Jo x

  3. Absolutely Jo – and funnily enough I believe that most people can spot when a piece of work isn't genuine – it doesn't quite ring true….
    By the way, absolutely adore your paintings, especially the kitchen ones – they have a real serenity to them x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *