Thursday, September 24, 2015

What Is Originality? - Why Talent Alone Isn't Enough for Being an Artist

Originality is nothing more than a new combination of already known material.

Let's start this blog with something really basic: Usually what is expected from art is originality. Something unique. And to create something unique is actually really hard, or otherwise I don't know why I often have the impression that most artworks are basically all the same. Let's be honest: We all plagiarize from each other - this is just the truth about how learning from each other works.

Be it motifs, techniques or ideas that inspire us ... Whatever we create is made of things we've seen earlier. There's always something that gave an artist his ingenious thought, since no idea plops out of nowhere. Sometimes it may feel this way, but when looking closely one can see that it's just a combination of what the artist already knows.

For example, let's make up an alien: I'll bet you anything that most of us will come across the question how many eyes we'll give it. Sure it can have square eyes and exactly six of them, but ... it's still "just" a combination of what we know: eyes, a square form and the number six. If you ask me, it's far more original to abandon human features on principle. I remember seeing some really interesting aliens in Stargate SG-1 that didn’t have any similarity to the inhabitants of the planet Earth: For example, there was an episode in which a crystal turned out to be alive; in another episode there was a planet populated by mists that had a consciousness. And yet, these ideas are still "just" combinations of things we already know: being + crystal or mist = alien.

So can we agree on one thing? That originality is nothing more than a new combination of already known material?

What makes such a combination original and unique is the train of thoughts that led to this combination. And it's nothing new that some people are better at creating new combinations than others. And maybe it has to do with talent. But the bitter truth is:

Talent alone is worthless.

The human mind doesn't go beyond what it knows. An artist can have all the talents in the world - but if he knows only pink, plush and rabbits he'll never create anything more original than pink plush rabbits. So what I'm trying to say is: The ability to have original ideas depends on the knowledge of the artist.

Personally I sincerely believe that you can't be a good artist if you know nothing of the world. If you're not curious and don't do any research. Maybe knowledge is even far more valuable than actual talent. - Or is it not? Or is curiosity even part of being truly talented?

What do you think on this topic? Please let me know in a comment!

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