Written and Media by Katie Wallace
Inspiration exists all around us: magazines, books, television shows, and most importantly, the internet. With the creation of the internet came a surge of tutorials, DIYs, and how-to’s on anything and everything. These tutorials range from baking, to changing your oil, to arts and crafts, including the ever-popular and way over-done melted crayon art. Heck, there’s even an article on where to find inspiration. However, that doesn’t mean that creativity ceased to exist. People still put their own spin on recipes, crafts, etc. That’s how Pinterest tutorials and DIYs begin in the first place: someone takes an idea, remixes it, and makes it into something that is all their own. While the idea may not be an original one, it is creative. The thought behind it and the ideas to change whatever product the creator is making makes it creative. This person did not copy the product exactly; they put their own spin on it.
The definition of “original” and “creativity” differ greatly from each other, while still working together. As defined in the dictionary, “original” refers to the first of something. “Creativity” refers to taking an idea or concept and making it different than it was before. For example, when Henry Ford developed the Model A in 1903, he took the idea of transportation and revamped it to make travel easier. He did not come up with the original idea of having a carriage take a person from one place to another, but he “transcended traditional ideas” to come up with the motorized vehicle. The same concept can be applied to the arts. Concocting an original idea in the arts seems impossible. Perhaps there are exceptions to this, but every piece of art (music, design, photography, film, etc.) has been inspired by something else. The band Twenty One Pilots, composed of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun, wrote a song titled Stressed Out in which they state “I wish I found some better sounds no one’s ever heard… I wish I found some chords in an order that is new.” Because of the ease of access people have nowadays to internet, countless ideas are being thrown around. Musicians can easily make their music accessible to anyone wanting to listen. Artists no longer need a gallery to have their work shown; they can publish what they have on numerous websites dedicated to giving artists exposure. Nothing is original anymore; everything has been inspired by something else, but that doesn’t make it any less creative.
Photography and design are both fields that require a lot of creativity in order for one to be successful in their area. In my opinion, when a photographer or designer is just starting off, they need to look to the professionals in their field for inspiration. I photographed my first wedding last September, and I would have had no idea what to do if I hadn’t researched wedding photography beforehand. I researched images from professional photographers in Central and Southern Illinois as well as other photographers outside my geographical location. However, I didn’t just look at images and try to copy what another photographer has already achieved. I did research on photography techniques for during the wedding and after, during editing. I looked to multiple sources for inspiration (not just Pinterest), to try and find a standard I should set for myself so my work was my own, and not a copy of someone else’s. Yes, I researched what equipment other photographers had, and their preferences on certain aspects of the day, but by the end, the work was my own unique creation and no one else’s. I made my own mistakes and I learned from them, as well as adding my own flair and style to the photographs that I took. If I had not searched for inspiration beforehand, I would have been completely lost the whole day, not knowing what to do with myself. Even now I continuously research other photographers and follow their work. One of my favorite photography companies to follow is Schilling Photography, whom I heard of through some friends who work there. Frankly, I’m always in awe of their photography and editing. However, while I admire their work, I don’t try to recreate it. I find what I like about their images (such as composition, posing, editing, etc.) and working to make it my own.
No one person is exactly alike. No one has experienced the same events you have from the same perspective. No one has thought the exact same thoughts as you. However cheesy it sounds, you are a unique individual and no one else in the entire world is like you. Everyone has different life experiences; everyone is unique. While we all have the same physical features and go through the same sort of life events, they’re not exactly alike. We have unique perspectives, unique thoughts. We have the ability to create an endless list of unique word combinations that no one else has ever thought of before, but the words themselves have been used. So why can’t that same idea be applied to the arts? No one else has ever created a design like mine. No one else went through the same process I did. No one else has the same brush strokes and shapes that I have. No one else has taken a photograph exactly like mine, in the exact location, with that model, and that lighting. That’s why my photograph is unique. Just like with word combinations, there are endless amounts of unique and creative photographs and designs that can be created. Every design is creative, even if the inspiration came from another piece of art.
One example of this is a process book. Designers create a process book to go along with a major work of art to show what they did throughout the making of their design. I learned about this just last semester when it was assigned as part of my final project in Specialized Studies in Design. In order to create this book, we were encouraged to screenshot our progress along the way, as well as saving the research we did to achieve our final product. This project was a new concept which required a lot of research. Without researching ideas and methods of digital montage, I would not have been able to have the same outcome that I did by the end of the semester.
In case it has not already been made clear, I believe that every design, photograph, song, etc. (that has not been blatantly plagiarized) is a unique and creative work of art. There should be no shame in finding inspiration for a work of art. I look to other artists for inspiration all the time, but I never feel guilty about it. I’m not stealing the artist’s piece and calling it my own; I’m looking at what has been created, taking pieces of it, and adding my own creativity to it. I’m not saying that this should be done with everything an artist does; obviously there should be some sort of attempt at originality. But there’s nothing wrong with looking to others for inspiration. Whenever I find out that someone has used my work to inspire their own creativity, I am beyond flattered. It brings me joy that something I’ve slaved over and created is being used to inspire other creative minds to do great things. Let there be inspiration. Let there by creativity. Do what you can to inspire people to create bigger and better things with what they have. Just because it’s not original doesn’t mean it’s not amazing.