The Circle of Creativity

There is a wonderful book called “Steal Like an Artist”, and I read it once, a while back.

It seems like such a simple thing. As an artist working in paint and pencil our art teachers started us off by having us replicate other artists work. Musicians start by learning scales and move up to covering some of their favorite musicians, or some of those considered the best in their industry.

In fact if you go back to classic Renascence paintings you will see many with the same theme, or pose. A few are quite clear that the copied another. Van Gogh copied Millet. A large percentage of music all use the same four cords, all the way back to Pachelbel. We won’t even get into all of the movies influenced by other or outright remake them. Then there is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and the thousands of adaptations.

Art, all art no matter the medium, is a flow of thought and action. It is the combined totality of all that we’ve known an experienced. All that we’ve watched, tried, emulated, and retold.

But to learn to produce your own art it usually stars by imitating old art. Writers will try writing fan fic, or write in similar styles to authors they enjoyed reading. Artist will try reproducing techniques, images, and variants that they see in other artists. Musicians will practice their favorite songs before they start writing their own. Even game designers will start by programming simple games before striking out on new adventures.

Yes, there are the occasional creators that come up with their content very shortly out of the gate. But I would say that is more rare then creators who mimic before creating.

Think of it like a child. When you are a baby you don’t blurt out whole sentences. You say sounds, then words, ten mimic people around you. Finally, after months of practice, you start saying whole sentences, then paragraphs and stories of your own. The creative process is much the same.

And then it circles around. The things you create inspire the next generation of artist. The things you create will inspire new creations. Then you’ll consume new art and experiences from new areas and that will influence your continued growth. As long as you are living you are gathering new pieces to add into your canvas of creation.

So don’t be afraid to mimic now and then. I happen to know some great movies that started by making fun of some existing movies. I know a couple of books that came about by mashing up ideas from other books.

And if you’d like some more inspiration, I really suggest reading “Steal Like and Artist“.


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