this is where i talk about influence and when it's more than just that.
i painted this weekend. a big canvas. that's it up above with the child's chair i sat it while lost in the brushstrokes. i turned the tv to disaster movies, a marathon of silliness i could tune out, and i opened the front door to the sunshine, and i painted. under the black and white are the beginnings of another piece, four women i painted over, a just-not-working painting that i will try again later on another piece of canvas. the black and whites were the first stages in this painting, and the flower was just for me, something to remind me where this painting was supposed to be headed, something to disappear into the background a bit when complete. i've had the image in my head for a couple of weeks, i'd drawn a couple of 2 minute sketches just to keep me oriented, the way i always work. i never have the finished piece figured out. it's much the same way i write.
and then today i saw bridgette's newest encaustic piece, and i knew where all the inspiration and influence for my painting had come from. this is not the first time it has happened with bridgette - she is one of my all time favorite artists, and i'm sure that's because her work resonates with me on a such a gut level. not an excuse, but a reason. she and i have had this discussion before, with a small piece that was not such a copycat, but still made me uncomfortable. this big one makes me very uncomfortable. it will change. i already know the direction it will take while still holding my original thoughts close. i messaged bridgette and told her about this, told her i wasn't sure if i would even post this image, then decided i would. decided i would talk about it once again - that invisible line where influence becomes copycatting or plagiarism. but i don't know what to say. this is obviously one of those times when the line has been crossed; so often it is less hard to tell. but that said, this weekend i saw an image on pinterest, and sure it was one of maddie's, backtracked it to flickr, only to find that it wasn't. surprised to find it wasn't - it was that similar, all the way down to the ocean in the background. it, too, had crossed the line.
photography is hard to hold onto - it is easy for someone to imitate someone else. so easy to use the same textures, subjects, colors. it is especially easy when someone is learning their craft. find someone you like, follow them, absorb them. there is nothing wrong with that. it only becomes wrong when you stop there, when you don't follow yourself all the way out.
painting and writing are easier to keep close. a painting should obviously be yours. or mine. i can learn your technique, you can learn mine, and we should not be afraid to share our knowledge; we should understand that we will use that technique to further our own work. we should follow ourselves all the way out. writing is the easiest to protect, perhaps - if someone takes our words, even a sentence, even a phrase, it is plagiarism, easy to prove, and that person should be ashamed. if someone tries to write like us, to imitate us . . . well, that's tough. i don't think that's easy. writing is not a digital process. we always follow ourselves all the way out.
in my message to bridgette, i told her i was glad to've seen her new piece today - and by the way, you'll never convince me that wasn't a bit of serendipity. seeing her piece when i did made me push myself away from the canvas and take a breath. i told her when i'd painted over her influence, it would still be there, but in heart only.
what say you? when is influence no longer influence, but imitation?