Friday, December 21, 2007

Copycats *clarified

The thought of trademarks, copyrights, infringement, etc. frequently come to mind when I'm posting artwork or pretty much anything online. Today while browsing some websites I came across this artist:

The artist above is 'Brandi Milne'. I had never heard about or seen any of her work before, but it was very similar to this artist:

The artist above is Audrey Kawasaki.

Now is it just me or are they strikingly similar? I was immediately taken aback when I first saw Brandi Milne's work, just because it was so reminiscent of Kawasaki's work, down to the wood board with rounded edges. I checked out Milne's website, and it too reminded me of Kawasaki's own website,

Okay, I mean the similarities are pretty obvious, albeit superficial, even down to the font...

I'm not the artist being "copied" (if you want to call it that, we could call it "inspiration" too, or by any other word less provoking so as not to upset the more sensitive). I don't think it should matter but I do not know either of the artists personally (though many people do and find it offensive to compare or even consider these artist's work similar or inspired by each other (see comments)).
I felt like their artwork was alike enough to point out, because it aroused many questions and emotional responses. I never once suggested that was a bad thing or that it reduces the credibility of either of the artists just because their art is similar, I merely pointed out quite superficial observations between the two that I saw. Yes, the font. Yes, the materials. It's interesting the amount of emotion is stirred up when the slight mention of something possibly being unoriginal (especially when talking about art) makes people go on the defense or resort to personal attacks.

I had a strong emotional response upon seeing these two artists work in comparison to each other and I wanted to explore that response, what it meant. Why did some part of me want to defend Kawasaki's work? Was the sole reason because she was the first artist I discovered of the two that I thought had established this look and style as her own? I attributed this style to her work alone, and for some reason it was the naive part of me that still holds art to be truly unique to the individual that creates it. The more I think about it the more I find that it is almost impossible to call something "unique". How could one ever be sure or prove that? Plus, what does it matter anyway? And why do people get such a huge emotional outbreak when something is accused of being a "copycat"? I'm not saying I dislike either artist because they have similarities between one another. I'm not trying to put down either artist by comparing them, that was never my intention nor is it productive in any way. I just wanted to bring up the fact that we will never really be able to put a box around who's copying who, who's inspiring who, because we are all "inspired", we all "copy", whether or not we can admit that.

I mean, is being original or unique even the point of art anymore? We are in a contemporary world of art criticism, where we can have sophisticated discussions without resorting to personal affiliations or what not.

The fact is that art is forever debatable in terms of copying or originality. Of course when we see something we admire we get inspiration and ideas, this could be labeled "copying" (which is too offensive of a word for some people to handle). Never was I trying to attack either artist. I saw it as more of a philosophical question, what is inspiration? What is copying or plagiarism, what is the fine line between the two? These are questions that yes, span deeper than computer fonts and materials. To me, there can never be a right or wrong answer when talking about art, though some people will never understand that. Isn't art is supposed to provoke deep feelings and questions, as this "lame" blog entry has? I respect the opinions of those that have been so emotionally affected.
For me personally, I thought that to be satisfied with my work I needed to explore and practice my own technique until something unique came out that I could call my own without feeling like I "copied" someone else. But now that I think about it, is that even possible? With all that we see every day is it still possible to create something unique when in this day and age everything has been done? Is it even relevant to be unique anymore? What is the value of "uniqueness" or how can one even define that?
For example, what if I never even knew about Kawasaki's work? What would Milne's work mean to me then? It brings about a lot of interesting things to think about, like how much one can be "influenced" or "inspired", where to draw the line between admiration/inspiration and just plain copying, whether or not it is significant to be the "first one" or the "inventor" of a style and what it means to coin a style others will be inspired by and eventually 'copy'. These are just open ended questions, and of course everyone is entitled to their own answers to those questions.
There is an infinite amount to debate and question. But I guess that is part of your role as a human being. We're all unique and different. Or are we?