Let's Talk: Creative Competition

(I want to preface this post by saying that this is NOT about copyright infringement. You should address that directly if it happens to you.) 

The Balm Co posted this on instagram the other day, saying "to my creative career folks: worry about you. everyone you encounter who "does what you do," is NOT out to get you" and it was so refreshing to see. 

I'm most involved in the abstract art world, and I see this all the time. Even well-established artists will blatantly call someone out, and send droves of their followers to attack this person on social media. And, why? Because that watercolor splash looks a little too similar to your own? Because that other artist was experimenting with techniques and it looks like an attempt at "your" style?

I think we can all feel a little insecure at times, and I'm guilty of it myself, but in the last two years I've learned to relax and simply get over myself. There is enough creative space for all of us, there doesn't have to be ONE who is the best. And most importantly:

We should never harass or bully other people out of creative experimentation. 

Someone who is dabbling in "your" techniques might only be using it as a stepping stone to something new that they can call their own. If you attack this person and stop them in their tracks, you're stopping artistic evolution. We may never see their new ideas, which is such a loss. 

Let's all take a minute and analyze ourselves. Next time you want to blast someone for "stealing" your style, ask yourself this:

  1. Do you think that your style evolved out of pure genius in isolation with your own thoughts? 
  2. Can we really pretend that you haven't studied the work of artists before you? 
  3. Do you think that every piece of impressionist/minimalist/cubist/surrealist/etc art is derivative garbage because it wasn't done specifically by the one person that went down in history as the inventor of that technique?
  4. Think about your earliest work in high school, in college - where was your signature style? Should we attack every person starting out in painting for not hitting the ground running? If someone told you that your work was derivative and worthless because it looked too much like Monet or Picasso or Pollock, how would that make you feel? What if 100 people harassed you for not being original?  Would you still be painting today? 

In many ways,

All art is collaborative. 

Your only competition is yourself, and your ego. 

This is the main reason why I started by weekly artist interview series, makers to know. I've interviewed makers of all kinds, yes even abstract artists who may be seen as my "competition" in the marketing/business world. But, I want to take a few minutes each week and give you the spotlight, because you deserve to be known and talked about. You're working just as hard as I am, and your work deserves to be seen, even if my audience is relatively small in the grand scheme of things. 

This is a touchy subject, there's a lot of gray area - but let's talk about it. Have you ever called someone out for copying you? Have you ever been called out? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!