Influence, copying, time and distance.

mydeskjuly2dogs2balls I am working on three new books at the moment. One is a delight to play with, a book of numbers. One Cheetah, One Cherry. It’s a little anarchic, but not in the flow of the numbers ( 1-10) but in the imagery, which is rich, influenced by my adoration of the medieval scribes and artists who laboured so many years ago decorating manuscripts and doodling in margins.

I know that in the past some people have criticised my books as being ‘too good for children’. It’s a criticism I am happy to try to live up to. My belief is that nothing is too good for children. But I try to design books for grown ups too. I know parents spend a great deal of time with these books.

Number two is: Two dogs, two balls, one big, one small.

Lots to talk about there including big and small.

belle ivineThe background for this work was inspired by a small illustration in a book I have, Medieval Dogs, by Kathleen Walker-Meike published by the British Museum. The painting in the book was painted around 1340 in Spain. Even so I have not copied the image but used a part in a similar way to decorate my painting. Even separated by time I feel it is only polite to do as much honour to the original, possibly Spanish anonymous artist by crediting him/her with that influence over my work. I love the beautiful paintings of this period, the colour, the pattern.

patternRecently on facebook I have seen posts. People show someone’s work, often crafts people, sometimes painters. They say “I like this, can you make me one like it?” The answer from the maker they are asking is often “Yes, I can, and cheaper”. It should be, “No. Go to that maker and ask them to make a piece like it for you. It’s their art, their idea.” Sometimes I see work that is very derivative of another artist with never a comment or a recognition of any influence to the original maker. Once I saw a comment that it was “Ok to copy someone’s work if they live a long way away from you.” How far? How far is far enough to make the theft of ideas ok? 1 mile, 50 miles, another country. It’s nonsense. I see people copying the style of inventive facebook people, down to the very made up language they use, taking their ideas for promotion, not changing them at all, speaking in someone else’s voice or voices, a strange jekyl and hyde of other people’s ideas.

Be original. Follow your own voice. Have faith in your own voice. Whether that be in words, or images, whatever your craft. Yes, we are all influenced by things around us, by work that has gone before ours. I owe a huge debt to all those anonymous scribes who laboured in cold cells to make beauty, all those Egyptian craftspeople who sculpted and painted, to Brian Wildsmith and his glorious watercolour work who taught me by looking at his work to free some colour from my soul, and many others. But I hope I have a language of my own, both in words and pictures.

There’s a strong line between influence and plagiarism. Not a fine line as some think.

I love it when I see my work popping up, shared on people’s facebook pages. I love it even more when they have tagged me, or credited me, so when images wander off, and they do, to have a life of their own, there is something that leads that stream back to the source.

( Two dogs are Ivy and Belle, sisters, Crab Hound and Eel Hound of great beauty, who posed rather elegantly whilst demanding biscuits.)


About Jackie

I am an artist and writer. I live in a small house by the sea in Wales where I write, paint, walk and watch and dream of bears and whales. I love to read, have a wish for wings and prefer the company of animals to that of humans, though at times I can be quite friendly. I am learning how to work with wood engraving tools and hoping to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
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15 Responses to Influence, copying, time and distance.

  1. Judy L says:

    Important message…beautifully worded…I admire you, Jackie.

  2. John Ward says:

    well said. I find it hard to see you as a rhinoceros, though.

  3. Judy says:

    Exactly so. Too much is borrowed without asking, without credit, without thought of the original.
    I love those dogs. I have forgotten how to count, I am so ancient. I will need to buy that book to remind me. But I might let my new granddaughter look at it every now and again . 🙂

  4. Lynda says:

    Well said Jackie, if you can’t be original find something else to do ‘cos you’re clearly following the wrong road

  5. Sometimes I wonder, what with all you do both domestic and artistic, how you find time to blog, but I’m so glad you do. the new work is delicious. But, referring back to to that blog post a short while ago, I did share it and many artists responded by finding their own ‘stolen’ work at that awful site. Most, I think followed through with letters and signings, but seeing how the company continues to morph, and in light of spending too much time ’tilting at windmills’ in this fast moving world, some finally gave up and decided not to care. I am not in business, and the few artworks I’ve produced have already gone to purchasers and friends, and/or are hanging on my walls. Still I think it might be helpful to re-post that entry monthly for a year just to keep artists and crafters aware, and who knows, someone might catch them out.

  6. Chiara says:

    Excellent post, so beautifully said too. And those hounds, so elegant!

  7. Charlotte says:

    Well said. I remember studying Dutch and Flemish 17thC art and following through the apprenticeship of master to student. The process of copying was instructional, directed by the artist at the head of the studio, the purpose was the mastery of technique and rarely were the works seen outside. We have lost that discipline of apprentice, to journeyman to master.

  8. Jude Walker says:

    Too bloomin’ right.

  9. Well said and very elegantly I must say …………Love your work .xxxx

  10. Karin says:

    Thank you for saying what I can’t find the words to say.

  11. Karen Cater says:

    I so agree with you! as an artist I find I have to explain the difference between influence and copying so often. I like to think that influences are absorbed (other artists’ work, photographs, almost anything I see along the way), gestate for a while, then reappear in an evolved form, moulded by my own imagination and style, becoming something of myself and separate and different from the original form in which I first saw them.
    I love your elegant hounds!

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