Artists Finding Their Own Voice

“We want you to take to take from us. We want you, at first , to steal from us because you can’t steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice. And that’s how you will find your own voice. And that’s how you begin and then one day someone will still from you”. –Francis Ford Coppola

Do artist copy? Yes, artist do. The same story they copy will come back with different coloured glasses. Nobody is born with a style or with a voice. We don’t come out of the womb knowing who we are. In the beginning, we learn by pretending to be our own artist. We learn by copying.

We learn writing by copying down the alphabet. Musicians learn to play by practising scales. Painters learn to paint by reproducing masterpieces. Memories back then: The Beatles started as a cover band. Paul McCartney has said, ” I emulated Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Lewis. We all did.” McCartney and his patner John Lennon became one of the greatest songwriting teams in history, but as McCartney recalls, they only started writing their own songs “as a way to avoid other bands being able to play our set”.

” Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing”. –Salvador Dali

If you dream of being an artist. First, you have to figure who to copy. Who to copy its easy. You copy your artists, the people you love, the people you are inspired by and the people you want to be.

“You start out by rewriting your hero’s catalog” –Nick Lowe (cartoonist)

“Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find yourself”. –Yohji Yamamoto

The reason to copy you artist and and their style is so that you might somehow get a glimpse into their minds. What to copy is a bit trikier. Don’t just snatch the style, snatch the thinking the style. You don’t want to look like your artist, you want to see like your artist.

” If you have one person you are influenced by, everyone will say you are the next whoever. But if you rip off a hundred people, everyone will say you’re original!” –Gary Panter (cartoonist)

At some point, you will have to move from imitating your artist to emulating them. Imitation is about copying. Emulation is when imitation goes one step further.


Nothing is original, snatch like an artist. A good artist understands that nothing comes from nowhere. In addition, I’m a graphic designer, when designing a book cover or invitation cards or posters, I steal steal ideas from professional designers around the world. I will mix all their ideas and come up with a different solution.

When you look at the world this way, you stop worrying about what is “good” and what is bad, there is stuff worth snatching and stuff not worth snatching. Everything under the sun is up for grabs. If you don’t find something worth snatching from other artist, now, you will find it worth snatching later or tomorrow, or a month or maybe a year from now.

“Art is theft” –Pablo Picasso

“The only art I will ever study is stuff that i can steal from” –David Bowie

At start, I found this idea depressing, but after figuring this hidden secret, it filled me with hope. There is this French writer whose words inspire me, Andre Gidé said “Everything needs to be said has already been said. But, since no was listening, everything must be said again”. Thats why nothing is completely original.

It’s in there in the bible: ” What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again, there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9 ,NIV)

All creative work builds and multiplies on what came before. If we stop trying to be completely original and embrace influence instead of running from it.

“What is originality? Undetected Plagiarism”. –William Ralph Inge

The Descent Of Ideas

Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or a chain of more proven previous ideas.

There is a trick they teach in art school. They draw two parallel lines on a piece of paper: as shown on the picture below.

Question: How may lines are are there?

Answer: Two lines.

There is the first line, the second line, but there is a line of negative space that runs between them.

See it? 1+1=3


A good example is genetics. You have a father and you have a mother. You seise features from both of them, but the sum of you is bigger than their parts. The reason is that; you are a remix of your dad and your mom and all your ancestors. Because gou have a familial descent, you also have a descent of ideas. You don’t get to pick your family only, but you can also pick your friends and you can pick your mentors and you can pick your everyday music, the books you read and also movies you see.

You are, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.

German writer Goethe said, “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”

You are sum of all your influences.

“We are kids without fathers………….so we found ou fathers on wax and on the streets and in history. We got to pick and choose the ancestors who would inspire the world were going go make for ourselves.”