I’d been following a discussion on a LinkedIn art group that asked, What is Originality?  Knowing it was one of those discussions that could suck me into wasting hours socializing, while telling myself it was networking, I hesitated to add a comment. But it finally lured me in.  It’s a topic that has come up over and over on every art site I’ve ever been on. Today, I decided to blog about it here and ask my readers the same question.

Some of the discussion was about digital art, and whether things like mechanical reproductions could be considered ‘originals’ or if they were as original as hand pulled prints.  Someone mentioned that context was so important, and I agree.  For art that only exists in digital form when it’s created, it must be printed or displayed some way for it to be enjoyed and sold.  It shouldn’t be devalued simply because it is reproduced on monitors or paper, instead of stemming from one original painting.  For that matter, writing is a reproduction, when it’s made into books, but we value books.  Ok maybe people are buying fewer paper books and buying digital ones now…but that’s another tangent.  Making a repro from a painting is not the same as printing a digital art file. It’s context.  However, just as painters usually accept that drawings may command lower prices than paintings, digital artists and photographers might have to struggle with buyers not seeing the value the same way, I dunno.

Aside from the print-reprint-reproduction-digital file discussion, below is the part of my post I decided to include in this blog entry.

[To] me, “original” has more to do with how the artist has interpreted the subject. I believe all artists are capable of applying their life experiences and inner ‘self’ to their art, but not all do. Some artists copy more than create, and to me copying is something kids and beginners do to learn, but as others have said, too, when you grow up and develop your own style you leave that behind. Some artists may have trouble tapping into what it is that makes each person’s art potentially very unique. My husband is not an “artist,” but nevertheless we were goofing around with a big piece of muslin one day and he painted a rather remarkable abstract bird. He had no clue that was in him and he was amazed and pleased.

I think we all have that in us, we just have to tap into it, and that’s where real originality comes from. So when I see artists say they cannot come up with anything new or there is nothing new, I have to disagree. There may be ‘nothing new under the sun,’ but we all are like a filter that takes everything in, and it comes out different for everyone…if we let it.

What does “original” mean to you?


3 thoughts on “ORIGINALITY

  1. Big topic; far-reaching. Computers have made things more complicated, of course.
    I liked the story about your husband and his creativity. So true, that each of us has that “something” that’s JUST US.

    Anyway, digital art…wow. There are people who dismiss it because a computer can generate some kinds of digital art with very little input from users. I know people like that who ALSO use Photoshop’s many tools in order to make their photos better and don’t see the similarity. I often wonder where they think those tools come from? And how those tools do what they do? It’s the computer. It’s software, doing the same thing that some digital art programs do.

    What makes the “art” is the person using the tools. I’ll bet anything that the first artist who used store-bought charcoal in pencil form or the first oil paint in a tube was jeered at by artists who didn’t.

    The originality is the person: the one who’s sitting in a hot room, recalling faces from long ago, pulling from poignant memories, matching the colors in a sunflower, analyzing the angles of diffracted light, pushing buttons, dragging sliders and ignoring the rest of the world until his or her art speaks.

    Well, that’s how I see it.
    Love this post, Cindy.

    (And WOW I totally forgot about LinkedIn!!! thank you for reminding me!)

    • I agree, it’s more about the person using the tools, than the tools themselves. Of course, some technology makes ‘copying’ much easier, but I don’t think that moves the bar for originality, it just affects how much copying we see. There are some really fine digital artists, just as there are some fine watercolorists, etc. It’s about what they do with the tools, that’s what it always comes back to, and the most important tool of all is the brain.

    • BTW sorry for the late moderating/reply, I was away from the internet for a few days.

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