Rumbling Discontentedly

Searching for my style

I saw something yesterday that annoyed me. Many folk have a little piece saying something along the lines of “don’t steal my art”, which strikes me as understandable but futile, but one guy broke new ground with a general warning on his own pieces: “don’t copy my style.”

First of all, I didn’t see anything individual about his style; it looked like many others of that genre. Secondly, we are all inspired by everything else we’ve come across in our lifetimes, including this person so worried that he might be copied. Like any of us, he might well have come to it in his own time, but the likelihood is that he didn’t just make it up out of nowhere… there was nothing new about it. The piece I was looking at looked like a pale version of something from The Golden Compass.

The funny thing about ideas is that people tend to get the same ideas over and over… partly because they are drawing from the same wells of inspiration. Like when I took a photo of a cobweb with dewdrops on it, and was going to blog about it, and a little while later found a couple of blogs by other Scots around the same time, talking about these cobwebs with dew on that they’d taken photos of. There is no way that they copied me, as I never blogged about it… and I didn’t see theirs till after I thought of it. Actually, I doubt if they ever came near my blog.

He has a bit of a nerve to suggest that I (along with others) should stop experimenting and discard perfectly good examples of (cough) art I might have considered making just because it might look like stuff that’s already out there. There are many who post tutorials teaching us how to do this or that, and in the end we can combine the skills to make something of our own. They don’t complain when we post a few pictures like theirs; it’s more like “welcome to the party!” I could almost describe it as a type of internet apprenticeship, which is what it’s all about. Not “here’s my special brand… now you can’t ever do anything like this.” Like what, exactly? Perhaps I should just avoid looking at his work, and then I won’t be subliminally (or overtly) influenced. I can’t promise I wouldn’t have similar ideas on my own, without ever having seen more than two of his own pieces.

Wrongly labelled

An extra rant… things that appear in the wrong categories. It’s bugged me ever since my eBay days in the year 2000 or whenever. All people had to do was write “This is NOT a Steiff bear!” and it would appear in the Steiff listings, as if they weren’t long enough already.

There were the misspelled things that never got into the right listings, but if you were on the lookout, you might get a cheap ‘Stieff’ bear that none of the rival collectors noticed. Usually if they were serious collectors, though, they were on the lookout for misspellings themselves, hoping you weren’t noticing.

Or there were the ones with titles that just said “A lovely cuddly soft toy!” and you wanted to know (without having to look) what sort of soft toy. It might have been a Steiff. It might have been the old pink Woolworth mouse you’ve been looking for for years. But you only have so much time to spend on the search, and your old computer is too slow to look at every page that leaves you wondering. I didn’t spend much time or money on Steiff bears, but I looked occasionally to see what was out there.

And the miscategorizations spread to other fields… such as stock images. Recently I decided to look for spaceships, space shuttles and UFOs. The UFO category was stuffed full of women posing in Sci-Fi costumes, along with pages and pages of perfectly ordinary sky photos. I picked out three sky photos (not from the same pages) and would you know… they were all by the same person! I looked to see if maybe she had called them UFO Skies, or written casually in the description “this would be good with a UFO travelling across it”, because then it might not have been deliberate. But ‘UFO’ wasn’t in a single one of them, not even as part of a word… it must have been added to the search terms. Verdict: not accidental.

If I wanted a nice dramatic sky for a UFO to travel across, I would take or make my own, or search the ‘sky’ section of the Stock Photos. I wouldn’t look under UFO if I already had one. A background, I mean… as it happens, I did have one of my own.

Pah.

(I ended up making my own wobbly UFOs).

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7 responses

  1. I think any time anyone puts anything up on the Internet, it is just a given that it is open for “reinterpretation.” Of course, there is a line drawn at all-out plagiarism, but a basic idea of a generic concept?

    I am irritated by the mis-categorization of things, too, especially photographs.

    Did you receive my story?

  2. Sorry, no story. :-(.
    In case I misspelled my email, I reposted it over at yours… see if it works?

  3. I had a piece of artwork stolen by a friend. He took something I drew and stuck a slogan underneath it, and is selling it on a T-Shirt.

    I would have given it to him if he had asked. It bugs me that he didn’t.

  4. I smiled reading this as I have used interesting art I find online to make my beer labels, of all things…I often wonder if the artists would be offended if they knew…noone but myself and a few friends ever see them so it’s not really an issue to me. I ask to use them, but often don’t say what for unless they ask.
    I’ve always asked others for permission before using their stuff in something I make digitally, and have never had anyone say no yet. I’ve never refused anyone asking me. I think it’s a matter of politeness…like stealing someone’s apples off their tree. They probably don’t care, and have lots they’d love to give away, but it’s nice to ask…

  5. Yes, it’s always nice to ask – especially when selling someone else’s design on a T-shirt or some other way. 😦

  6. PS I’ve been asked if people could use my things, it’s always a nice feeling. 🙂 Makes your day.

  7. […] Funny Thing Happened A week ago in Rumbling Discontentedly I mentioned dewdrops on webs. This was […]

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