There is a huge difference between imitation and influence, however, there is a very thin line that divides the two of these concepts. Every artist has at one point of another toed the line just slightly, some have crossed without realization, and other still bound across the line with reckless abandoned. But to be truly great, one must know the difference between being influenced by other artists and imitating other artists.
When I started photography, I started because I wanted to be exactly like a photographer I greatly admired. I started as an imitator. Everything I did was influenced by this artist and I attempted to create art that people would think was theres. My only goal was to be them. Yet that led to more problems than I could have ever imagined.
Imitation will only get you so far as an artist. Eventually you will realize that you can never be the greatest, because you will always be the second best. Artists thrive on being different, that’s how they stand out. But when you’re imitating someone, you’re building your foundation off of another person. It’s not about being different, it’s about being as similar as possible. That is the most destructive thing an artist can ever do.
It leads to frustration, your work will never be as great as the other artists. You might get close, but it will always come it second because they got there first. It leads to disappointment, your work fails to meet your expectations and therefore you are hardly ever happy with the results you’re turning out. And it will lead you to a place where you’ll question whether or not creating is worth it. I know I reached that point.
Mid 2017, I came to a realization. If I continued to create as I was creating, I would forever be in the same place I was that day. Frustrated and disappointed with my art because it was always second best. Everything I did while imitating another artist would never be good enough, I knew that in my heart. But I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who I was as an artist outside of who I was trying to copy.
That’s the biggest problem with imitation, you lose sight of who you are as an artist. You forget what makes you different, or if you start photography with imitation as I did, you never knew what made you different in the first place. Imitation will never get you anywhere satisfying in your artistic journey.
To create work that resinates with your soul, you have to journey out on your own. You have to fight your way into your own voice. It can be a scary journey to walk because you realize that there’s no roadmap to follow for most of 2017 and 2018 I felt like that each time I created. I didn’t know what I was going for or who I wanted to be as an artist and that was okay. All I knew was that I had to create whatever I needed and wanted to on my own.
Imitation will always limit your potential. However, never confuse imitation with influence. Other artists are a wonderful area to look to for influence. Certain props, techniques, themes, etc. are wonderful places to look to for inspiration in order to influence your art. But be sure to never take the whole concept, take pieces of it and spin it with your voice. That is how an artist survives when looking to others for inspiration.
Creating art is about finding your own unique voice. You will only be truly satisfied if you are able to find it and create within it. And once you do, then you have the chance of being great because there can only ever be one you.
Until Next Time,