Paublo Picaso said “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
I like to imagine that Picasso painted a picture of a mic and dropped it immediately after saying this.
When it comes to creating, this is my favorite saying second only to “would you like more coffee?” When working on a project—be it a video, web banner, or song—there’s an incredible weight we feel as creatives to make something original. But the tricky thing with making something original is that original doesn’t exist anymore. To back this statement up, let’s take a look at a book I enjoy called The Bible.
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
This isn’t said to rain on the creative parade that you thought you thought of. It’s to let you in on the secret that stealing, remixing, and remaking are the best ways to improve your project. In fact, stealing creativity is something that happens all the time. For example, Let’s take a gander at my good friends Miley Cyrus and Janelle Monáe.
Here’s a photo from Miley’s video for Wrecking ball (the director’s cut—which doesn’t have a bunch of weird nudity and hammers.)
Now let’s look at Janelle’s video for her song Cold War which came out three years prior.
Both are one long shot of these women singing their souls out straight to the camera with shallow depth of field and a solid-colored background.
Even the greats have stolen. Who do I mean by the greats? I mean Disney. The Lion King is actually stolen from a Japanese movie called Kimba the White Lion that was made in the 60s. But Disney didn’t just copy the ideas of talking lions, they took all the great parts. All the part that made you feel connected. And they added the voice of James Earl Jones which helps everyone.
And just to make you laugh to yourself like the insane hyenas from The Lion King that Disney stole from Kimba the White Lion: both Kimba and Simba stole this story from good ol’ Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Learning to steal from the resources around you is an immensely valuable skill. Find who’s amazing at something you want to be amazing at. Take them out for coffee and steal as much as you can. I steal everything from new music from my co-workers to life lessons from my three older brothers. I don’t copy their mistakes. I steal their knowledge.
So remember: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” — Luke Garmon