Art or Copy Cat
For several years. I have been asked over and over to create a piece of art that someone has seen somewhere else. And for a long time. I'm going to be honest. I fell into this trap. When I first started out, I guess I just felt empowered by the fact that I could replicate the same art that is blasted all over the internet. I would replicate. And sometimes even sell. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. Boy was I wrong. Empowerment comes from the excitement, passion and joy I get from sitting down and creating something original. Empowerment comes from creating a custom piece that has meaning behind it for families and for myself. Empowerment comes from celebrating the artwork of others.
Now, it's easy as artists to consume all sorts of amazing inspiration on Pinterest, social media, etc. etc. But we have to separate it out. There are a few terms I want to talk about, then I will tell you how I create an original piece.
First understand a style.
One style is cursive with typography. This style is super trendy. This style has been around for several years. I have no idea who decided to make the first "Why Hello" print in this style. But I made mine in 2014, definitely ripping off a pinterest situation. And now in 2017... I couldn't even tell you how many versions of this very print are out there.
This is a fine line.
Because yes, it's a style. But you are using the same style... and the same words... in the same way as another artist. I guarantee none of these Etsy shops have this print copyrighted, but that doesn't mean it's a highly ethical situation as an artist.
Here's the difference between using a style and totally copying.
I found the quote "Rise and Slay" on pinterest. For a long time I've seen the words "Wake, Pray, Slay" and when I saw the Rise & Slay. I knew I wanted this on my wall as a reminder, that I can wake up and SLAY the DAY as long as I have that power of prayer and the Lord behind me. This quote became a life mantra immediately. I knew I needed to write it.
I have discontinued all my "why hello" style prints that are just copying. However, I still feel okay about using this style and trend of cursive and text. This is called typography. It is okay to use typography. It is NOT okay to use the same typography with the same phrase and sell it.
How can you use a popular style without copying. What makes you stand out?
#1. Weave your brand into the popular style
I do this by adding watercolor. photographers do this by using the same poses but different edits, or the same edits in different locations or lighting, florists do this by adding their signature greenery and ribbon
#2. Do not copy word for word, cursive letter for cursive letter, typed word for typed word, create art
My sister took my amazing amazing engagement pictures on a canoe, vintage style. Many other photographers use her presets and they also use canoe pictures. It would be a whole other thing if they use the same presets, same angles, same canoe idea AND the vintage notebook themed shoot. There's a difference.
#3. Don't create something based off another print you like. Separate the quote you want and the style you want.
I look for WORDS I like, not for ART or PRINTS that I like. Then I use those words, and make them my own way.
Whenever I do a typography and cursive style print. I want mine to stand out. So I always watercolor or hand letter the cursive. And I try to use the type to tell the story. Lettering is the process of drawing words, to give quotes and prints meaning.
Typography works the same way. It is an ART.
If you think someone is copying you... first check the internet.
Sometimes we think we have an original idea and are super mad when someone starts selling something similar. But I challenge you to type the same phrase in Etsy... and just check, are you copying the same words, in the same style, in the same colors, with the same flowers. Or are you creating art.
Are you arranging the words in the way that you feel emphasizes the right words and pulls out the deeper meanings?
Below I passed the originality Etsy test.
If someone is copying you...
then it might be time to have a FRIENDLY conversation with them. Sometimes we accidentally consume art and think it was inspiration... then realizing oops, I totally ripped off their original art. If it's going to hurt your business, take legal action. Make sure your artwork is original before you get started with that drama though.
Find a better process for inspiration.
This is what I do, since I have established a brand.
I search "words to live by" "mantras" "hymns" "quotes about ___"
I take these words. Then I sketch out how these words speak to me, how I want to represent their meaning. I put a star by the style I like and I get out my watercolor paper.
I play with it all again digitally.
Then I print.
I encourage you to do this too. Sometimes we find art that we LOVE. I have to admit I do this every day. So lately instead of trying to do the same style of florals, I ask if they want their artwork featured as part of my Creative Community of featured artists.
If they don't want to and I'm itching to work with the same florals or same color schemes, I do. But I separate it out. I will use the color scheme on my own style of florals with different words. OR I will use the same style of florals with a different color scheme and different words. Or I'll use the words, and will create my own illustration. We can be inspired by others without copying it!
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