“… to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.”
~ Herman Melville
“… to be hated for what you are than to be loved for something you are not.”
~ André Gide
The challenge here is you can’t separate the artist from their art. Criticize my art, criticize me. That’s not an artist acting like a baby, it’s just an artist’s reality. The “you factor” in art requires confidence, or at least courage. Presenting who you are to the world is a daunting task, especially if you take stock in their opinion. Since you can’t really separate creator and creation, the only defense an artist has is to either develop a thick skin or start hiding and imitating something or someone people like. Bad news either way.
Imitation is said to be “sincerest form of flattery.” It may be true, but art is not about flattering someone you admire, it’s about expressing yourself. Hopefully, it’s expressing yourself in a way that inspires people – a personal expression.
Your personal expressions will probably, intentionally or not, carry a nod or a tip of the hat to those who have inspired you along the way. I don’t think that’s necessarily bad, and I’m not even sure it can be avoided. Things that connect with people and inspire them are usually somewhat familiar, yet new and original.
You would have a difficult time separating me from my influences because they have become a part of my expression. It’s true of anyone who creates. It becomes a problem only in purposeful intention, trying to be like someone else or trying to hide yourself in the imitation.
If you want to be original, the “you factor” is the essential ingredient. When I listen to a music artist, I can sometimes tell their influences and those who made an impression on them. Not necessarily a bad thing, unless I can’t tell the difference between them and their influences. Cloning or copying is, at best, second best.
I’m calling for what I call “’honest art.” I may not like all of it or connect to all of it, but I will appreciate your honest expression. Give me passion. Energy. Life. In your art, show me who you really are and I’ll respect you for it. Hide it from me and I’ll likely write you off. Just being honest.
Be original. Be you. It’s better that way.