THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ORIGINAL ART
Now before you come after me after making that bold title statement, I’ll explain why. As much as us artists would like to think otherwise, there is no such thing as original art. It’s not new but simply just an improvisation upon an existing idea, style or form and/or a juxtaposition of several of them in one.
The best argument I could possibly think of to invalidate this statement of debate would probably be say, historical origins — for example, the first ever independently developed written language to make the history of writing even heard of today (even historians debate on which script was the first and whether others were independently developed too or a further development based on the first yada yada.)
Moving on, here’s why there is no such thing as original art.
Let’s talk about music. Remember the time Justin Bieber released his “Purpose: The Movement” album in 2016 and his top hits like “Love Yourself” got covered all over the world? Oh and how about every other top hit like Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” right now? Whatever cover artists produce are remixed versions of the original track, where they may have incorporated their own riffs, improvised on the musical instrumentation, maybe use a different key and say mashed it up with another track. And typically, complications arise whether or not usage is personal or commercial. If a cover artist decides to sell his or her cover of an original song, he or she has gotta pay royalties to distribute it.
Well, even the “original” artist of a song gets criticised for copying someone else’s song. Justin Bieber and Skrillex got sued for not obtaining a license from Indie musician White Hinterland for her vocal riffs and similar melodic progressions. Even Taylor Swift was not spared from litigation for her track “Shake It Off”. For dance moves too, Michael Jackson was influenced by his predecessors James Brown and Fred Astaire. Well then, how about paintings? It is not uncommon for instructors to encourage his or her students to use reference images for those. That’s right, photography is also another art form! It is definitely beautiful to see how two art forms come together at an interaction point in this manner. But again, is anything really original?
Photo Credits: Alice Achterhof
If you’re curious, my personal influences come from artists like Seblester and David Milan — these two are always reinventing themselves, yet having ownership of their own distinctive styles. Another source of inspiration for me that heavily influences the way I understand lettering and typography are the things around me. I recall my travels last year where I visited 26 cities across 5 months or so, the amount of typography around (especially USA, particularly San Francisco and Los Angeles) was absolutely insane! If you’re like me, remember to snap pictures to keep a mood board of sorts as your go-to inspiration. Definitely go see the world; if not, there are Instagram accounts that do post on murals/ signs out there such as Type of London, New York Said, New York Numbers etc.
After blabbering so much on this, you might ask, ok what’s the call for action here? It’s simple — Go create something today! Originality doesn’t exist, but authenticity and genuineness do. Two people can have the exact same idea and further develop it as their own in their own unique way possible and the end results might not even be the exact replica as the inspiration source. The work was inspired and as Austin Kleon puts it, that’s how you steal like an artist. (But damn, you gotta credit your inspiration tho — for example, I’ve seen countless watercolour artists replicating Yao Cheng’s work, style and even palette colours without letting her know that she had inspired them, it’s kinda saddening.)
Again, as much as us artists would like to think otherwise, there is no such thing as original art. So go do a remix of your inspirational sources today. Reimagine the possibilities from whatever that is existing today and it’ll challenge you to purposeful observation and creative thinking for even better creations. The more you do it, the more you can distinct yourself from others. It might be something that is known to you but always remember to have humility that you are shaped based on your influences and inspirations. Even Steve Jobs’ creation of the iPhone was inspired from Calligraphy.
So go create. Who knows one day, you’ll inspire someone down the road just like how you were inspired by someone else?