Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Art of Imitation - Lack of Originality?

There are many different kinds of imitation in art. At the same time, we expect artworks to be original. But is it really a contradiction?

What makes realism and photography artistic is the original input by the artist.

Most people in the art community agree that tracing other people's drawings isn't the ideal form of art. Many people feel it's okay for learning purposes and I, too, have learned a lot by tracing and copying drawings and photos. Yet the problem with copying is that it lacks originality and thus isn't real art.

... Really?

Let's question this.

The Influence of Idols


Imitation is good for learning, I just mentioned that. But it can also help finding one's own style. For example, I follow the artist Batusawa on DeviantArt. What I love about her art style is that it's so similar to the style of Kazuki Yone, one of my favourite manga style artists. This is no coincidence. This is what Batusawa writes in her profile:

"My art style may vary, but I mostly stick to my favorite Kazuki Yone style, which is my idol and my biggest influence :DI try to find my own style along the way ^^The influence of Yone will still be there, but of course, there will still be a distinction between mine and hers :)"

By embracing the influence of Kazuki Yone Batusawa has reached great results. She writes that she tries to find her own style along the way, but I feel she already has found it. Because: What else is one's own style if not a combination of one's own natural predispositions and the influences we embrace? To some degree, copying - or rather: welcoming the influence of idols - helps us to find our own style.

The Art of Illusion


Another example of great imitation is the reality TV series Your Face Sounds Familiar. Every week celebrities are challenged to turn into iconic music artists and make their performance as close to the original as possible.

I've watched quite a few episodes of the Russian version of the show and what struck me was that making an exact imitation is actually hard work. You have to adjust your voice just right, you have to watch your every movement and your every facial expression. Because if you overdo it even a little your imitation will immediately turn into a parody.

Parody is hard, but imitation, creating the illusion of an iconic singer actually being there, is even harder. It is an art of its own.

Imitation and Realism


Well, now what about realistic drawings? Don't they create an illusion as well?

In my former post about idealism and realism in art I concluded:

"Just copying what the respective artist believes to be reality without any idea behind it is just plain boring. Art shouldn't show anything just because it's there in the real world - it should show it because of its meaning."

Drawing objects as they are just for the sake of it may be excellent practise, but it's not art. Just like random photos of random objects aren't automatically art. What makes realism and photography artistic is the original input by the artist. It's about composition, light ... about things that add some kind of meaning. Even if this meaning is a perfect illusion.

The Meaning of Imitation


Originality is important. After all, art is all about creating. However, as stated in an earlier article on originality:

"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."

Plain imitation without adding a meaning to it is boring. And yet ... Art is all about imitation of things we know.

How do you feel about different kinds of imitation? Which would you call art and which not? Why? Please let me know in the comments!

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