I will give a disclaimer. I have never written anything this in-depth about art theft or anything similar. Heck, I didn’t even expect to reach this level as an artist. This is all based on personal experience and is solely my own opinion – plus the advice of some friends and mentors. Please understand that before proceeding to read this post.
Okay? Okay. Ready.
I’m never been very expressive through words, and it’s always drawing or painting that gets me to exhibit that fragile part of me. Luckily, I guess, being able to combine both through lettering (which, by definition, is the art of drawing letters) gives me more of an advantage.
My first encounter with lettering deemed to be an unlikely stance of adding shadows, lines and banners to my words. I’m pretty sure I’ve done this in high school but it’s just recently that I knew such art form existed.
Fast forward to two years later, here I am trying to make a name for myself in the lettering industry, through my feelings on paper, paintings of flowers, illustrations of my travels, and basically anything created by ABC, aka me. I’ve started getting recognition thanks to Instagram, but the past few years were rocky, I’ll admit.
I started from scratch during my freshman year in college. I created a “shop” to showcase my amateur hand painting skills, and from then on, tried to scare myself into entering all these things I never would have imagined to be doing now at 21 – selling at bazaars, learning the ropes of sales and marketing, running a business on my own (at seventeen, back then), creating and sustaining a blog with proper photos and supporting content, speaking and sharing my thoughts in public (and to think I am an introvert) and teaching lettering to young artists.
Everything has been a topsy turvy crazy kind of ride, which is why you would understand me if I said my life now has been overwhelming, beyond ways indescribable. I worked my way to who I am now, and I know it may not be much, but it is – for me. Growing up talentless and unnoticed has given me the go signal to prove these people wrong, and at the same time, prove to myself that I AM GOOD ENOUGH for something.
Which is why encountering a “copycat” a few months ago has sparked some sort of annoyance in me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not unmotivated – I actually ended up progressing more and keeping myself busy with better endeavors for personal growth (such as making the big move).
I’m publicly letting this issue out because honestly, I feel that others should be warned with the difference of inspiration and imitation. Deriving from Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist, there is a clear distinction between good theft and bad theft.
Let’s face it, everyone’s been – at some point – guilty of copying and imitating other people’s work. Especially now that lettering and various forms of art (from painting to photography and basically, any form of visual art) have been prominent online, it’s hard to claim something original and unique.
Quoting Camie below, who’s also been experiencing the same thing for quite some time now –
Everyone goes through some kind of identity crisis, and it’s true, no one is original, but you are still you and that makes you unique enough, as cliche as it may sound, to be enough and to always add your own twist, style and personality into everything you do. Be inspired by the things you see that you like, but don’t be lazy and just adapt blindly. And if you must adapt, at least have the dignity to lower your pride and admit when an idea is not your own.
It takes effort to find who you are, everyone goes through the journey, but just because you see someone whose formula works, doesn’t mean it’s fit for you. It takes hard work, and when you blatantly copy people, it only makes you look foolish and desperate.
– Camie Juan, lifestyle blogger at Wild Spirit
My Twitter account two weekends ago was crazy with conversation (I’d rather you not read it, let’s just say I get pretty much berzerk with these things) as I stumbled upon certain things that have reached beyond my patience limit (I’ll be honest; I’m too kind – to the point that I’m too sacrificial and it doesn’t benefit me anymore – but this was TOO MUCH). Fine, you can copy my “work” – but even conducting “workshops” and selling your “handmade notebooks” is just below the belt.
I had to continuously work on what I have achieved now. It’s not a simple, “Oh I want to teach a workshop!” – I had SO MANY doubts from day one – (Am I good enough? Can I even teach such thing?), and you have to be at least credible enough to teach, not rip off other people’s lesson plans.
To add to that – there was always a reason for selling my art (it took me years to get my credibility and confidence together), and it was a working strategy, a trial and error kind of thing. You don’t just see stuff online and rip it off by doing your own version of it. That’s just WRONG.
Everyone was super supportive, and I was really overwhelmed with the response. I’ve moved on since August – after all, why still dwell in what has been, right? I know in my heart I’m not doing anything wrong, so it’s up to her to get herself together.
One thing’s for sure though – I am never, ever, letting petty people and childish defenses get to me.
Some people (I really look up to) messaged me and as I faced this issue and here are some things I’d like to share – that I completely agree to. Leaving them here for advice you all can take as well.
Vin is one of my favorite artists and his work really inspires me. Please excuse my fangirl feels but I was super flattered when he sent me pieces of advice (thank you Vin!!!). He told me to “focus on myself” because no matter what, other people will always get in the way – but it’s always important to pay attention to yourself and how you’re going to keep striving to get better.
Camy, who’s been in the industry for quite some time now, gave really good advice – and it really, really means a lot coming from people like her who have more experience in this field and have known the ropes in dealing with issues such as this. She reminded me to “just let them be” – and tying in to what Vin said, just disregard what others are doing, and know that at the end of the day, you and your work will always be the #1 priority.
And quoting one of my life pegs, Taylor Swift – shake it off!
Adding this post my friend linked to me: What To Do If Your Art is Stolen – for everyone’s reference.
Good gracious, not really caring is seriously helping me save so much time and focus my efforts on more important things (such as fixing this website, or working on projects, or doing personal things). There are more priorities there than dealing with haters and negativity.
I’ve been grateful to everyone who have continuously helped me cope through this issue in my life as a blogger. It’s definitely one of the downsides of showing my work online – but my intent to share my love for art to others will never change. I hope people understand that my blog and my work are here for inspiration, for motivation, and all for positivity purposes – not as a reference for copying or plagiarizing.
*shakes it off after writing this post* I also hope this is the last time I’ll be this serious on the blog. I hate negativity! *shrugs it off*