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?


ZOE said...

We know now that a text is not a line of words releasing a single "theological" meaning (the "message" of the Author-God) but a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centers of culture. [. . .T]he writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one of them. [. . .] Succeeding the Author, the scriptor no longer bears within him passions, humors, feelings, impressions, but rather this immense dictionary from which he draws a writing that can know no halt: life never does more than imitate the book, and the book itself is only a tissue of signs, an imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred.

Barthes essay "Death on the Author"

I am tempted to agree with him that there is no such thing as original. It's all copy. I also believe that emulating an artist/writer can be a necessary step in part of the process to developing a voice that is close to the self.

So I say use the wood and see what happens.

soma city said...

i do know both of these artists personally and i think you're way off base here. brandi is known for the worlds she creates, audrey is known for her women.

are you saying brandi is a copycat just because she painted an octopus?

they've both been doing art for about the same time, but their art is very different. brandi is mostly an illustrator and most of her works are on paper. i think the piece you linked above looks like wood because of the line work in the background, but i would be surprised to find out it was actually wood.

as far as their sites go, neither one of them designed their own sites, and it's a free font. i'm sure if you scoured the web you'd find many others using that same one.

if you like art of this vein, you should also check out amy sol and stella im hultberg. but before you start throwing around accusations you should know their all friends.

jasmine said...

First of all I wasn't "throwing out accusations", I was merely commenting on similarities between the two artists and the significance of similarities between artists or what philosophical questions originality/inspiration bring about. I never made any false accusations, merely pointed out facts from my own observations.
Just because I don't know the artists personally doesn't mean I can't have my own opinion on them.

the sweat shop said...

I see a lot of similarities between the two artists, and regardless of who did what first, I think the validity of your comparison is strengthened by the fact that both artists are aware of each others work. Just because the two artists are friends it doesn't mean they don't borrow or appropriate ideas. If anything their relationship is more reason to point out the possible influences they have on each other.

I also don't see how simply stating the fact that one knows the artist personally contributes anything to the discussion. If an artwork is up for public viewing then any kind observation is fair game.

Anonymous said...

Man, you are lame. This blog proves that off the bat. Then, to draw comparisons in two artists for, say including the same animal, in their art, or who have websites with, uh, frames, and galleries, and buttons. And then, the use wood as a medium? Man, I take it back, you are spot on. Bravo Sherlock, you've uncovered the conspiracy. Both of these artists do brilliant work, in their own worlds, for people to enjoy. The fact that you cannot see the difference in them is the prime reason you SHOULD NOT be writing a blog in which your "art" opinion is voiced. Did you even look at the images you posted on your bolg? Two girls entwined with octopus tentacles, and an octopus in a glass jar eating cake. Yep, you're a keen one. Did you even take the time to go on either artists site and explore their volume of work?(Ms Milne's in particular, as you are unfamilliar with her work). Could you not have taken the time to do this BEFORE you spew your "opinion" *see bordeline slander* on the www? No?

And by the way, I've seen other people have made rosemary shortbread. I'll find out their names and post the similarities between what you do and what they have done.

Anonymous said...

How about just clarifying your philisophical outreach by dropping the title "copycats"? Having re-evaluated your words, would you still find it fair examining two artists who you realy have no in depth knowledge of with a title like copycats?

jasmine said...

I didn't mean for the title to be offensive, though the word does carry a lot of negative connotation. But that was the whole point, the point of why that word is so offensive or negative, or how we should re-evaluate the meaning of "copying" in contemporary art. I'm not going to appease you anymore, you have your own opinion as does everyone else. We don't have to agree with one another.

the sweat shop said...

i can't believe you guys are getting so worked up about this. as i'm far as im concerned neither of their works require much "indepth" observation. I mean there's no denying that both artists are very talented. But there's really nothing profound or enlightening about either work. they're meant to be superficial and thus should be judge accordingly.

soma city said...

knowing them has nothing to do with anything. i just said that in hopes of being a little less anonymous.

the most offensive part of jasmine's post (and the thing that incited me to leave a comment) is the word "copycat".

both of these girls make their livelihood with their art and by calling one a copycat, you are demeaning their work.

"copycat" is offensive, especially to a fan of that person's art. and this blog is indexed by google so anytime anyone looks up either of these artists, this post will be in their search results.