5.27.2009

Am I Original?

Color Sampler, Beth Hemmila: acrylic on panel

Disclaimer: Welcome to my blog series on copyright! This is the second installment in a four part series in which I am exploring the spiritual and emotional context of copyright. I am in no way minimizing the legal and practical issues surrounding this complex topic, but would like to offer space to muse about questions and feelings that arise. To catch up on the whole series and read insightful comments by fellow bloggers, click here.

Originality

Inspired by Jasper John's painting Numbers in Color this miniature sampler pictured above was my pivotal teaching moment. Giving 7th graders a set of limiting parameters such as the same colors of paint (red, yellow, and blue), tools, paper size, and instructions, deep down inside I wanted to prove that each one of their paintings would be truly unique...I was not disappointed.

When all 35 color samplers hung next to each other, it was clear that not one person felt the desire to copy a fellow student's work, and I began to believe that when someone is given the freedom to make a choice, they will always do what comes most naturally to their heart and that in itself is truly original.

Am I Original?

What am I wanting when I ask to be seen as original? For me, just saying the word "original" brings up feelings of anxiousness and longing. Could it be that I am yearning to be known and respected by others in a deeper way? When I want to develop a unique style, am I trying to create an easily identifiable signature like a bird call so I'm not lost in the crowd? Is this my own fragile way of seeking reliable nurturing and genuine appreciation from others so as to find a sense of belonging?

Being original implies singularity and suggests that without this badge of uniqueness, I might feel loss when I become viewed as one among many -- my vulnerable self avoiding the realization of our interconnectedness. Now that seems like the opposite wanting to belong! :)

I'm guessing you may have some interesting feelings in regards to these questions of originality, and I'd love to hear about them. I'd enjoy knowing more about the way others find compassion for this tiny, fragile bird inside each of us that just wants to make its unique mark on the world.

I found my source of comfort in the beauty of my 7th graders' color samplers and in the Latin roots of the word "original," which means "beginning, source, birth." How could anyone feel disappointment, if what we are seeking through originality is really a connection with the source of our being? :)

8 comments:

  1. Original ... and authentic to self. If we see our work through another's influence, we cut off our connection to and with the work. A dialogue ceases. Make a design decision, evaluate the work, and then make another design decision. It's easy to be lured into the influence of another's work that you enjoy. It's better to just buy a piece of their work.

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  2. that color palette is beautiful!

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  3. Hey There beautiful Lady, It's been a while, but what a wonderful post! This is a great question. In the art and music realm it's really hard to say at time. I'm inspired by Ezra Jack Keats and I study his work all the time. I also love the work of painter and collage artist Varnetta P. Honeywood. She is also a sort of mentor to me. When I study a persons style I will try to do the piece just like I think they would. I work in so many different media and enjoy doing so. I have developed my style over many, many years of study and finding myself and what makes me happy. I get clients and people who say they see Ezra's work in mine or Varnetta's work in my collages or paintings and it's the highest compliment paid! Are any of us able to create original work??? If you are on the planet and have ever seen a piece of artwork that moved or inspired you, I think you bring a little of that with you when you create. I agree Barbara, but for some of us we can't afford to purchase an expensive piece , but we can be inspired to create something very much like it in nature. Just my opinion

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  4. Barbara, I like how you phrased it "authentic to self" and the idea that if we stop hearing that part of ourselves we lose connection. Thanks so much for your insight!

    TaMs, so glad you did the colors :)

    Vanessa, so fun to see you again and learn about your influences. I remember tracing ancient artworks to feel closer to the artisan of 3000 years ago. At first I felt funny, but then as I moved the line I felt super connected and saw all these new things. So I admire your honest approach to developing a style!

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  5. I think the only time we are 100% original is when we are in the womb. After we are born we are influenced by our environment and those around us. When I create something I always use something else as a jumping off point, like a photo from my garden, a color combination in a painting, the shape of a branch, or a piece of jewelry, the list is endless. I think that out of all our influences an original can be born, but to deny that we are influenced by others is denying a huge piece of the creative process.

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  6. i have to tell you that since last wednesday, these ideas have been constantly swirling around in my head... i am posting today (with any luck) about how these questions are making me feel... and, naturally, there will be no finite answer, but it really is interesting to contemplate... and last but not least, you are very admired and respected - your person and your art... i truly mean it when i have said to you that it is such a gift to capture the essential the way you do... and everyone knows a hint charm when they see it... p.s. i really like what vanessa had to say and i agree completely... i was an art history major and i know i took a lot of influences with me... you absorb them and they become integrated into your core...

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  7. Gardanne, I love your thinking!! Original in the womb. Yes, I'm thinking that about sums it up :) I have always seen myself as a synthesizer of ideas and patterns, so yes I always come a starting place of something/someone else like you so adeptly described. Thanks for sharing! I really enjoyed your thoughts on originality :)

    Mary Jane, gosh it's good to hear that it has generated thoughts and feelings you want to share on your blog. Thanks for acknowledging my work and I'm running over to check out your blog :)

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  8. Great post...I have been thinking about this subject all week. I like to think of humanity as constantly taking what has come before and exploring where to take the past into the future. It is all collaborative. Somehow,that sits with me better. I think blatent copying without the INTENTION to take that idea further and add your own twist to it is the opposite of creative. It is intellectually grotesque and that is the component of copying that I find distasteful. If you are learning, and you need to understand a certain technique that you can then turn into your interpretation of an idea...that is different. So many shades of gray to plough through. Great post.

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I'd love for you to share your ideas and stories on my blog! Please know that I may not always be able to e-mail you a direct response, so be sure to check back to my blog and continue the dialogue. Many blessings for connecting with me through word and image :)