Original Sin

21 01 2015

I am an artist. I have lots of artist friends. One of the things we spend a lot of time discussing and reading about (and whining about) is originality.


Undoubtedly, this is one of the cornerstones of being an artist. Everyone knows it is essential for artists to be original. There is no argument. It is required.

It is also impossible.

Wait. What?

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

Carl Sagan


We are all influenced by what’s come before; it is inescapable. Many of us will find others whose muse was sparked by a similar experience or vision or point of view – or what we ate for breakfast. That we share inspiration, medium, style, or vocabulary does not make us forgers, plagiarizers, or pretenders. To be deserving of those epithets, one must be guilty of simple and thoughtless copying; mimicry as straightforward and meaningless as the words “spoken” by a bird who is not conveying ideas, just making sounds.

Now, in the middle of my writing about originality, in just the last four days, I have read posts – from two people whose work I love – about this very subject!

Crap! It’s not ORIGINAL.

Great! It proves my point.

I will admit I had a few bad thoughts:

  1. People will think I copied.
  2. The others (might) have stolen my thunder.
  3. My post won’t be as good as theirs.

(Originality is not required to be artistic, but insecurity . . . got that in spades.)

Then I looked at who had shared the same bit of inspiration as I have and I realized that I am in really fine company. Further consideration revealed that, even though our muses attended the same dance, no toes got trampled.

One of the most enjoyable things about making art is the making itself. That someone else might serendipitously fall into a similar way of working should not bother us; even if they copy us intentionally and flagrantly, they do not stay our hand or rearrange our workspace or think our thoughts.

Now that I’ve thought my thoughts and shared them with you, I encourage you to check these two brief presentations on originality by these always-thought-provoking women: Gwenn Seemel and Marie Forleo.



Now, enjoy some apple pie, courtesy of Mom and the Universe.





6 responses

21 01 2015

Loved your comments on originality! Totally suspect I am one of those people who inspired the post! If not, well, it certainly was timely for me!! Hope you’re doing well. We NEED to talk!!!!

21 01 2015

Teddi, I think every friend who has put her heart into he work – and showed it to the public – has felt the competing fears of “Have I really expressed something new?” and “Will someone steal my idea?” My point is (Hello, Self, are you listening?) that both of these fears are counterproductive. We should do what we do with joy and reckless abandon. You inspire me in the best ways, Teddi.

21 01 2015

I always enjoy reading what’s on Scorched Eyebrow’s mind because it gives me something to think about. How does one remain fresh and original while at the same time perusing sites to see what others are creating? It’s a vicious circle and I guess leads back to the apple pie, if that makes sense.

21 01 2015

Not a vicious cycle, Elane- it’s a dizzying and thrilling dance. Enjoy the music.

21 01 2015

Paul de Marrais said “All art is derivative”. I paraphrase him by saying the Greeks and Chinese have been copying my forms for centuries. I do believe that every time I step up to the lathe I bring all of the experiences and influences that are me to the object I’m making (I know there are four personal pronouns in this sentence, does that make it original?). Interesting topic, as always.

21 01 2015

George, I love the way you think.

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