“Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”
Pablo Picasso said that… or did he?
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Supposedly this is a Picasso quote, but this article claims otherwise, and gives us an interesting perspective on what that quote actually means.
As an artist, I have heard this quote many times over the years. I have also heard people discussing its true definition, often with the wrong connotations.
Many people take it as permission to plagiarize or directly steal someones work, but that’s taking the quote completely out of context from the creative mind. In reality, what the quote is intended to portray, is that a great artist steals inspiration, not the work itself. A great artists will see something of beauty, and then understand how to make it more beautiful by adding a piece of themselves to it.
A lesser artist will attempt to accurately copy the existing art, and in the process create a lesser quality knockoff. This can be the only result, because there is nothing to gain from copying something that is already in existence. It just becomes something to do.
There is no innovation or creative process involved in passing someones work off as your own, but to see something of value and then make it yours… That is the sign of true creative genius.
A great artist will find inspiration in everything around them and steal that inspiration to make it the foundation for their art. This is why artists, musicians, writers etc, always need a muse. They need something to move them emotionally. Something from which they can steal inspiration in order to do their best work.
The great artists see the world around them as a vision board. As a concept for what they might create, limited only by the boundaries of their creative brains. The great artist steals from everything they see. From all of their experiences and all of their interactions. We steal inspiration from everywhere we can because we ourselves are inspired.
Inspired to create. Inspired to build. Inspired to change. Ourselves and the world around us.
So the next time you find yourself in a creative slump, just take a look around. There is beauty all around you from which to steal. There is plenty of inspiration to go around and always remember that the sign of a true artist is their ability to steal something and then make it unique. To make something that is the same, but different.
Because there is no real originality. There is only continual duplication. So it is necessary to steal. But only the inspiration behind the work. Not the work itself.
So, if you find yourself stealing directly from someones work, then maybe that means that you are not the great artist you thought you were.