“Good artists copy, great artists steal” – Pablo Picasso
A quote so good it must have been stolen!
Well, not exactly. but you can trace it back to this:
“He who steals a little steals with the same wish as he who steals much, but with less power” – Plato
Mimetic propagation led Pablo Picasso, probably unknowingly, to hand us this gem of a quote!
This form of stealing is not stealing in the original sense of the word. It’s more of what we could call a remix or sampling. We take one thing out of its original context and suit it to fit our needs. Usually optimizing the message in the process. Just compare the two quotes, which one punches you in the gut?
As hard as it might be for us to admit, we steal most of the time. Most people do it unconsciously, and don’t realize it until they hear someone say: “Yeah, I like it! It kinda reminds me of that song by…”
Hearing that, don’t you just want to..?
It’s ok, keep calm and carry on.
We get frustrated because we want to express ourselves and be completely original. When people compare us to something that already exists we feel unoriginal and less worthy, how can we possibly be as good as the ones we get compared to?
This is usually when we hit a brick wall and either quit or try something new. What we should do instead is get real about it. Yes, I do have influences! Yes, I do have something to offer! Yes, I AM original!
What makes you original are the things you are influenced by. If your only influence is Bob Dylan you might have a harder time being thought of as original than if you’re influenced by Bob Dylan AND Skrillex. Throw in a passion for steampunk clothing and 16th century art and now you’re either being original or a one man halloween party.
Explore your taste and delight in the fact that not a lot of people share all your influences and passions, find new and fun ways to combine things musically, aesthetically and emotionally. It will help you crystallize who you are and who you want to be.
Be a tasteful pirate.
Here are some other quotes to tear down this block:
“I mean Picasso had a saying he said good artists copy great artists steal. And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas and I think part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world.” – Steve Jobs, from the documentary “Triumph of the Nerds”
“With a thief, we want to know how much money he stole, and from whom. With the artist it is not how much he took and from whom, but what he did with it.” – Lukas Foss
“If you steal from one author it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many it’s research.” – Wilson Mizner
“About the most originality that any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgment.” – Josh Billings
“I steal from every movie ever made.” – Quentin Tarantino
“Somebody told me long ago that in acting, it’s okay to steal, just steal from the best.” – Nathan Fillon
“There’s no shame in stealing – any actor who says he doesn’t is lying. You steal from everything.” – Benedict Cumberbatch
“It definitely wasn’t like, ‘Hey, I’m going to steal that, and nobody’s going to know.’ The original ‘T.R.O.Y.’ came out in 1992, and it was like a 20th anniversary kind of thing. All of those intentions were there for it to be resurrecting a classic for a new generation. I tried to honor it.” – Lupe Fiasco
“My favorite actor was, is, Michael Keaton. Certainly growing up, in the movie ‘Night Shift’ he did something brand new that I hadn’t seen before that we all steal from now.” – Matthew Perry
“In a way I spend my entire life stealing from everything – from the past, from cities I love, from where I grew up – grabbing things, taking not only from architecture but from Italy, art, writing, poetry, music.” – Renzo Piano
“I try to steal from the best. Suck it all in. ‘Taxi Driver’ is really a bible for film actors, a master class. A lot of emotional power, a lot of emotional depth but it’s contained and you just see the tip of the iceberg.” – Sam Rockwell
“I played with so many musicians and some of the musicians would have something I want. I steal a lot of them, and I mash it up, I mash it up into my chords.” – David Edwards
“I get to study and I got to mimic and what I basically did was I stole from every person that I could steal from. I was an imitator. That’s what I was. It was years before I could take all of these things that I loved about all of these different artists and put them together and find my voice.” – Michael Bublé
“I’m not a great inventor from scratch. What I do is to use, steal, acquire, reproduce or re-cycle music from other musicians.” – Michael Nyman
“I don’t want to steal anybody’s story. I very much want to use the stories that I hear to get lost in my mind, to tell a larger story.” – David Levithan
“God creates, I do not create. I assemble and I steal everywhere to do it – from what I see, from what the dancers can do, from what others do.” – George Balanchine
And finally, some quotes that echo what Plato & Picasso said in the beggining:
“Immature artists imitate. Mature artists steal.” – Lionel Trilling
“Lesser artists borrow, great artists steal.” – Igor Stravinsky
“Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright.” – Aaron Sorkin