On Being the Bigger Person

November 25, 2014 Filed Under: Artsy Advice, Tips & Advice 16 Comments

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).

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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.

Focused

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.

Let Them Be

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.

Shake it off

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*

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16 Responses to “On Being the Bigger Person”

  1. Cla Panuelos
    November 25, 2014 at 8:35 am

    Hey Abby! I’ve been following you for a while and I can always see all the heart you bring to your work, so I think it’s normal for you to be angry with these people who are stealing something you poured a bit of yourself into. You have every right to get pissed off! While it’s right that you should shake it off eventually, I think venting in this way also helps. I hope you feel better and let karma do its work for you to give these art thieves what they deserve! Cheering for you! :)

  2. Abbey
    November 25, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    Hi Cla! Well, I guess I’ve reached my quota on ranting and I’ve gotten sick of it as well – and I’ve reached to a point that I really need to take this negativity off and move on with my life. Thank you! :)

  3. Marz
    November 25, 2014 at 9:21 am

    That’s a good perspective to have. Shake it off.

    You are being the bigger person by carrying on and concentrating on your craft. Just by looking at the folks whose been giving you advice (ka-starstruck ^o^).

    Btw, I like your website’s new look. Stay positive and be creating ^^

  4. Abbey
    November 25, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Quoting my favorite musician on that hahaha

    Thank you so much, Marz! :)

  5. Rej
    November 25, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Hi Abbey!

    Just recently followed you on Instagram and been reading your blog since you moved here (I knew about you through Camie and Kimi’s Twitter). Well anyway, I have had my fair share of experiences on being imitated by other people. Although I’m not much of an artsy person, all I have are my words and the way I do and talk about things, it pains me to know that some people don’t really know the limit of copying someone.

    This did not only happen once or twice to me, but a lot of times. A guy/girl sees something I post, then posts the same way. Or sees something I buy, then he/she buys it too after asking me. Or he/she posts something that was from me, and then he/she takes all the credit for it. Sometimes I even get too pissed off when I tweak my blog and then later on find out he/she tweaks it almost the same way. They say imitation is flattery – but if that is true – I don’t like being flattered that way. It’s a bit insulting and disrespectful, tbh.

    It’s nice to have people around you to keep your spirits high. And true enough, being the bigger person is always the better – no, wait, slash that – it’s always the best choice.

    Hope all is well with you today x,
    Rej

  6. Abbey
    November 25, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Hi Rej,

    Thank you for the follow!

    I totally agree that imitation is definitely NOT flattery. I think people have the concept all wrong. And irregardless of craft, anything copied or imitated is really a disappointing piece of work. I hope the people who do that to you learn how to adapt their own spin on things.

    Have a great day, too!

  7. Darlyn
    November 25, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    Hi Abbey.

    I actually found out about this whole copycat brouhaha through Twitter (sorry XD), and I’m so glad you’ve decided to become the bigger person. I started following you on Tumblr last year, and saw how you inspired a lot of people. ‘Inspired’ is the keyword here. You inspired them to start dabbling with calligraphy, but they tried to come up with their own styles. The copycat you’re talking about in this post, on the other hand, belongs to an entirely different category.

    Keep on inspiring people, Abbey!

  8. Abbey
    November 25, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    Hi Darlyn,

    LOL at brouhaha :)) Thank you so much!

  9. ANGEL
    November 25, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    Hi Ate aBAE! hahaha^.~

    I’m not too sure if you can remember me /silently wishes that you do/ but I am your annoying twitter/instagram/facebook/blog follower since…like last year? I remember you were just starting out really small but I saw the beauty in your artworks to the point that I personally strived to learn how to do lettering myself, despite the a bit of scarce resources ( I WAS SO HAPPY YOU COMMENTED ON MY INSTA POST ABOUT STARTING HOW TO CALLIGRAPH/LETTERING ;;A;;). Sorry to say this but– I was actually sort of happy (for the lack of a better term) to know you had a copycat because that only meant that you’re already known! HAHAHAHAHA No really…i was just kidding! But I was laughing all throughout reading this because I knew the actual situation (bec im a twitter stalker lol) and thinking about it makes me think again about ridiculous the whole situation was!

    I just want to let you know, that I admire you so much (you are one of my life pegs! yahee~) and your personality– especially how you handled this situation as calm as possible made me admire you even more. It’s evident how you grew even more as a person and as an artist through what happened and that’s all I’m actually happy about!

    Thank you for sharing with us tidbits of your life and inspiring us and I hope that in return, this expression of gratefulness serves as one of the things that will motivate you even more and live this lifetime, the way you want it to be. We’re always here– cheering you on! God Speed!

    P.S. My “smalltime” photographer brothet thinks your insta photos are really good and it shows YOUR style. It also showed how creative you are because of the mix of colors and hues! ♥

  10. Abbey
    November 25, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    Hello Angel,

    Ahhh, thank you so much for the long message! I kept laughing — especially at the aBAE HAHAHA. I’m glad you started doing art – keep practicing and definitely enjoy every minute of the process! :)

    Thank you for the kind words, kilig ako sa life peg hahaha. God bless you! <3

  11. ANGEL
    November 25, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    I’m not really good at art at all because I can’t draw to save my life but with practice I became better! Someone from school even invited me to teach children in an art workshop this summer! I kind of owe you this little succes! ♥

  12. Abbey
    November 25, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    Aww that is so nice! You definitely should! :)

    Aww thank you! Glad to have helped you find your artistic side in some way.

  13. Alissa
    November 27, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    I’ve never seen anyone as good as you Abby! :) Your calligraphy and lettering work is amazing! Original too! Glad I have found your blog years ago.

  14. Abbey
    November 28, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Aww, thanks Alissa! Means a lot :)

  15. Bella
    November 27, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Hi (ate lol) Abbey! I’ve only seen your work about a month or so ago, and you got me so inspired that I’ve started making my own calligraphy (I use the term very very VERY lightly). Thanks for posting this. It was a good reminder to stay original and draw inspiration without imitating. I’ve tried practicing watercolor painting and even though my flowers are in no way as nice as yours, I realized that it was a way of how I can really establish my own way of doing things; how I realized perfection is not a humanly achievable thing so I should not make it my ultimate goal. Progress should be the ultimate goal. Thanks so much for being an inspiring person. If it’s God’s will, I really hope to meet you someday! More power and God bless! :)

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