The Art of Copy

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Have you ever tried to copy one of your own pieces, aside from doing so as a learning tool, only to discover it never looks as good as the original? Well that is what happens when other artists are copied. So why do it?

The subject of copying was recently brought up by artist Emily Jeffords on Instagram and I'm so glad it was. Thank you Emily! This topic has been on the minds of several of us artists who, as mentioned by my friend and artist, Sally Powell Boyd, predate social media. I myself receive countless messages and tags from caring people pointing out work that even I think could be one of my paintings. I usually take the approach of trying not to think about it too much and just focus on my art. There was a time it used to not bother me at all but like I responded to one person's message, the more I see it, the more it's making me not even like my own work. The funny thing is, I recall hearing those exact words from my dear talented friend Erin Gregory who deals with the issue of people copying her work constantly.

10 years ago, in my home town of Amelia Island, Florida, I had an open studio with several talented artists. We each had our own space yet kept our doors open for visitors and one another. I recall countless times that some of us would meet up in the hallway or even in our studio and laugh at how our style was showing up in each others work. We never felt violated. It wasn't that we were copying one another, it was that we were "inspiring" each other and in the most positive of ways. An abstract artist next door, a traditional watercolor artist across the hall or a pastel artist two doors down. We were all so very different from each other yet our work still managed to flow together in one venue. This is also a good example of a well curated art gallery.

There is no copyright on a color scheme or subject matter but regardless of all that we are inspired by, when you're painting from your own experience and within, not outside of yourself, you develop a subtle and even sometimes strong style that is still very much yours. Music is the exact same way which is why there are different genres of music. Jazz, Blues, Rock...Every musician has someone who has inspired their creations as does every actor, film director and writer. With that said, this is an example of artists being inspired as well as influenced by the others work not copying their work.

Over the years, Blogs, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram have created a larger version of an open art studio. As emerging artists who would once meet most of our collectors in person, we were now seen all over the world virtually. It's a very vulnerable position to be in and for me personally, brought along with it a great amount of stage fright, discomfort as well as insecurities about my art, which at one time I never really thought was that bad. You post a painting on Pinterest one evening only to realize the next morning it was a terrible piece. That moment serves as a giant wake up call to step back, slow down and practice your art more. So we do. We work to improve. Back to the drawing board, long hours and lots of wasted paper or canvas never to see the light of day. I call them misfits........but most importantly to continue to allow our painting process to remain intuitive and originally ours.

My talented artist friend Erin Gregory, mentioned earlier, is copied more than any artist I know, and people may not realize that though it is flattering, it is also hurtful. It should always be reassuring to her that regardless of all of the Copy Cats out there, none of them can remotely compare to her original work.

I have to remind myself of this often but also remind myself that a blank canvas will forever be a door of opportunity to create something original.


  1. This is interesting because i contacted Emily Jeffords about what she said. I asked her if she thought copying was different than studying? In school we studied the greats and with permission, I studied Jenny Andrews Anderson to develop my skills as an abstract artist. I don't think rippung people's art off is ok,but with permission, studying it to grow is healthy.

  2. Amen amen amen. Thank you for these words- so clearly and thoughtfully put. It is hurtful and upsetting. Xx

  3. Christina, thank you for this. I see Erin's and Sally King Benedict' copied work everywhere. Heartbreaking.
    @CC for life — if I can pitch in. Study old masters rather, for color, composition etc. And whatever you study just keep it in your drawer and once you're ready to paint your own — put it into the world.