Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
Ever since man discovered his ability to create, rivalries have existed between artists.
Michelangelo would hurl insults at Leonardo da Vinci whenever he passed him by in the street, proving conclusively that Florence definitely wasn’t big enough for the both of them; Picasso and Matisse famously feuded over a lover, and the breakdown of Van Gogh and Gauguin’s friendship was reportedly a major factor in Picasso’s institutionalisation.
There have also been those who have accused each other of copying their work: in the creative world, there is no greater sin.
The originality debate is a well-beaten, well-trodden path and the internet has made it a million times more complex because you are now no longer competing with your small, known community for originality, but with the entire world. It seems that everywhere you look, everything has already been done and done better, yet the accusations still fly, and what was once friendly competition becomes a barbed rivalry.
Only a few months ago I was approached by two creatives who both claimed that they had done something first and both wanted their story to be heard. One was much, much older than the other and had been doing his job for much longer, yet in reality, nothing that he had brought to the local scene had not been done before.
It was a strange situation because while one was accusing the other of blatant imitation, the other was saying that he had been inspired by someone who had been around longer than both of them. I basically told them to make their peace and get on with it, but it was clear that the die was cast and their egos were not going to budge.
The issue is that in such a small community, we really cannot afford to have these kind of rivalries. Not only does it force people to unwillingly take sides, thus making it very hard for everyone to share ideas and just get on with things, but it also takes energy away from the actual art, which should be the artist’s main focus.
You are no longer competing with your small, known community for originality, but with the world
I can understand one’s frustration at their work being copied, but then again, if you’re going to claim that something was copied exclusively from you then I shouldn’t be able to Google about 10 images of exactly the same thing you claim to have created. It can be very hard to trace the source of one’s own inspiration and it’s even easier to get tangled in the threads of one’s own ego.
If you believe someone has copied you then they are very obviously already behind you.
While you will be able to come up with new, fresh ideas because you are your own source of inspiration, they will struggle and hit a brick wall every time they have to come up with something by themselves.
Instead of stoking fires, be the bigger person and keep in mind that imitation is the greatest form of flattery.
Don’t be the person who is remembered for your feuds with others: let your art speak for itself.