“Good artists copy, great artists steal.” ~ Pablo Picasso
There’s nothing new under the sun, there are only existing ideas put together in a new way. Many great writers, artists and scientists have spoken about the importance of collecting ideas from the world around us, and making new connections to trigger creative thinking and new ideas. Pablo Picasso is famously quoted as saying, “good artists copy, great artists steal”, a sentiment echoed by Apple founder Steve Jobs, but what exactly did Picasso, Jobs, and a whole host of other visionaries mean by this?
An artist is anyone who creates something. Artists are collectors collecting the things they really love. As an artist you are only as good as the things you surround yourself with. The more ideas you collect, the more things you have to choose from for inspiration. We all steal, it’s how we learn. We learn by pretending to be our heroes. We take what we love from the influences around us and become the sum total of everything we have been exposed to. The key to stealing ideas well is to know what’s worth stealing, what’s not worth stealing, and finding new things. Nothing is original. Everything is built on what came before it.
“Great artists” recreate existing ideas into something unique and completely different to where they came from. “Good artists” on the other hand turn great ideas into something confusing. A “great artist” will usually borrow from artists way back in time, or from a completely different genre. Whereas a “good artist” will deface what they take. If the origin of what has been taken can be traced, it wasn’t a good theft, everyone will know and the artist will look stupid for not crediting the source and trying to pass off the idea as their own.
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Deb McKoy is the Founder and Consultant at Peppergrain Ltd, London, UK. She began her career as a recording artist, achieving success in the UK national charts before going on to help businesses and individuals maximise their brand.