OK, there's this particular artist that I got into an unmentionably bad event about a decade ago, about which she still has not let go of the grudge from such event and holds to it so dearly that an apology of any kind is never going to be accepted. Now I moved on for the most part from that incident, finding love, a life, and my own way, but the last string attached to that closet skeleton is that women’s art. Strangely enough, I still enjoy it. But from a distance. I like it so much that I want to mimic her style. But getting references from someone who hates your guts and likewise is not that easy, though we stay out of each other’s way for the most part. So to the point. Would learning to and being able to draw like her be considered plagiarism or imitation? Given imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I’d rather not have an army of lawyers come down on my head. So I'm a bit lost. What should I do?
Confused from Orlando
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There is nothing wrong with learning to draw by imitating another artist’s work, and you’re not going to be sued just for doing that. Many artists learn how to draw by practicing this way. You will see a lot of furry artists whose work is reminiscent of Disney artists, or the work of Don Bluth, or the many anime creations out there, for example.
The only way you might be sued is if you create art that basically copies the other artist and then try to make money off of selling it, pretending it is her work. That is definitely a no-no. It is also copyright violation if you create a work that is not only very similar in style but also in content to the point that it looks like something the other artist would do and could easily be mistaken as such. In the 1992 Louisiana court case Mistretta v. Hunt et al. an artist created works based on Mardis Gras posters by another artist. The new works were so similar in style and content that they looked like the work of the other artist, and so it was ruled a copyright violation.
In your case, I would avoid copying characters she usually depicts. For instance, if she draws a lot of otters wearing swim trunks and sipping tropical drinks by a pool, you should avoid drawing things that are similar. In the court case above, the defendant not only emulated the artist’s style, but also the Mardis Gras elements she commonly employed in her work. The other problem was that the defendant was trying to make money off these basically plagiarized paintings.
So, Rule #1: Do not attempt to make money off anything you draw that is strongly imitative of the other artist’s work; and Rule #2: Do not emulate both the style and content of the other artist’s work (art that imitates content but not style is typically called “fan art,” and there is nothing wrong with that).
It is perfectly fine to gain experience and knowledge of drawing techniques by trying to draw like another artist does. As I said, many people do this. But, ideally, you should limit this to practice.
The other phenomenon about drawing practice is that, in most cases, you will find that after you have figured out how to draw well you will begin to develop your own style. Everyone has little quirks about themselves that lend uniqueness to their own work. You might also try experimenting with other media. Say she does work using spray ink pens and brush pens; you might try colored pencil instead, or maybe even acrylics or watercolors or cut paper. Each medium has different demands that will, of necessity, influence your style. In addition, try selecting not only art by this particular artist, but also pick two or three other artists that you enjoy and try drawing like them for a while.
Force yourself out of your comfort zone a bit, experimenting as you go, and you will eventually develop a style all your own.
Hope that helps!
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