We're all influenced and inspired by the works of others. This is natural, necessary and cherished. To be influenced is to be moved by something so strongly that it shapes and affects one's own creative voice. To be of influence to another is a compliment. It means that the influenced appreciates the creativity of the influencer, taking action to incorporate aspects of the influencer into their own work in their own creative way. When this is done with honor and respect, it happens in a manner that the influence can be detected, but the result is still unique. And uniqueness, combined with fine craftsmanship, is an impressive (and to me, necessary) quality when it comes to artistic expression.
Lately, however, I've been spotting a few artists taking it beyond the boundaries by imitating other well-known artists. It's glowingly easy to spot when it happens. And, it's beyond infuriating when I see it happening to fellow artists who have created their *own* style over time, and worked darn hard to get there... only to find that someone has instantly stolen their works by recreating them with little change, claiming the works to be their own and giving no merit to those they stole from. There may be nothing one can do about copyright infringement when something like this happens, but I can only wonder at how an artist can sleep well at night by making a career of outright stealing from other artists.
Unlike influence, mimicry is offensive.
When someone takes something created by another, changes but only a few things about it and then calls it their own... well. That is a whole new ballgame. And it's NOT cool. It's not cool at all.
Several years ago, a friend spotted someone on Ebay who had blatantly stolen my works and recreated them as their own. It wasn't just influence: it appeared that they traced my images, making colour/design changes here and there. Regardless of the small changes, it was still a stolen image. How did this make me feel? Angry... upset. Certainly not flattered. So, when I see this happening to my artist friends, I know precisely how they feel. These are the sorts of 'imitation artists' who seem to think they can get away with such a thing without being noticed (for all the wrong reasons.) Imitation artists are egocentric and self-centered, and care not how their copying makes others feel. In regards to the shady Ebay artist, this ill behavior came to an end somewhat quickly when the artist was informed that we were aware of what they were doing, and requested that they put an end to imitating my art.
Alas, I know it hasn't been this easy for all artists who have had to deal with such characters. So. For artists who think they can get away with duplicating other people's works: the truth always catches up with you. Stop imitating other people's work. It's nauseating.
I've also come to the conclusion that the 'imitation artists' will mimic purely for better sales: they'll suddenly change their style drastically to replicate whatever they see that's selling well at the time, rather than create what comes from their very soul based on their OWN seasoned inspirations. In other words, they steal from the souls of others for what they *think* will bring them notoriety. And stealing is not food for the soul. Nor is the type of 'notoriety' such artists find. Imitation artists, selfish as they can be, want a piece of the cake and they'll do what it takes to get it, even if it means treading on another artist.
So, with that in mind, let me rephrase the ever-so popular quote.
Influence is the greatest form of flattery. Imitation is an insult.