Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Big Picture

If you have ever gone to see a mural, you might have noticed that the other people viewing it are standing at different distances from it. Inevitably at some point everyone has to walk right up to it and look at it up close. When you do that you can't really see what you're looking at any longer.

For some inexplicable reason human beings get caught up in the small details of things and quite often lose sight of what they are really looking at. I have done it, you probably have done it...we all do it.

After yesterday's post, I gave all this fear of inadvertantly being too similar to someone else a lot of thought while I was working. As I said there are no new ideas, but I mentally stepped back to really examine that.

Human beings have been schlepping around on this planet for about 160,000 years give or take by science's latest estimations. Strangely enough we didn't really do anything interesting until about 40,000 years ago. Who knows what precipitated this motivational change in us, but it seems apparent that it happened. We decided it would be fun to have things like fire and wheels. Somewhere in there we thought it would be a good idea to paint ponies and such on cave walls thus inventing art. We moved on fairly quickly to agriculture, pyramid building, writing and social interaction in the form of structured communities. With the building of things, someone who had bad penmanship, or wasn't a natural born architect thought they would sculpt something instead. Low and behold we had another form of art.

We started developing all sorts of art genre's over the centuries. Jump forward to 107 years ago and ta da...the teddy bear came along. Of course back then he wasn't art yet. He didn't become art until my lifetime. I was fortunate enough to be on the ground floor of that movement. Or was I?

I can't honestly say that at some point in those 38,993 years before the teddy bear as we know him today came along that someone else didn't get the idea to make a toy bear for their children and decide it was art instead.

The point is, there really are no new ideas. Not one single artist alive today invented the teddy bear. We simply reinvented him and took him to a higher level, but in doing so we copied an idea that came before. While the human mind has expanded because it had to keep up with technology, ultimately it's always worked more or less the same way.

Every artist of any genre is "influenced" by something somewhere that was external. Very few people can just have a daily epiphany and come up with something that has never ever been done in the entire history of humanity. Even if they think they have, chances are they really haven't.

Once I stepped back to look at the big picture, I decided to stop worrying about it and just go with what I made. Sure I run the risk of someone looking at it and saying; "She copied so and so..." or they might look at the other person and think they copied me. But the truth is as artists we run that risk every single moment we spend creating something. It's kind of ironic we spend so much time and effort trying to escape something that is inevitable at some point in our careers.

The next time you read or hear a conversation about someone being copied, unless the two are practically carbon copies, give them the benefit of the doubt. There is a good chance they simply arrived at the same idea at the same time due to external influence and whatever is popular in the art world at any given time. If you still think they copied someone, just remember...in the bigger picture we all have one way or another because it's impossible not to. Even the very first artist simply copied what he saw in nature.

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