Hey guys! I came up with this quote & created this piece for one purpose & that was to try to highlight something which plays on my mind every time I share new work on social media. That is the scary yet inevitable reality that if you're doing something right, copycats won't be far behind.
This isn't just in illustration, it comes in all shapes & forms, in all industries. I can only talk from personal experience in the art world, but I'm sure it's just as gut wrenching in all fields.
So you work tirelessly at something, pour your heart & soul into it, put it out there in to the universe only to find someone else swoops in, tweaks it a little & gets all the glory. I can't even begin to tell you how many times this has happened to me in my career & I'll be honest, it never gets easier, but you do begin to develop a bit of thick skin over time, where instead of shutting yourself in the bathroom sobbing, you let it wash over you *sort of* & learn from it.
So I guess I just wanted to chat about how I handle it.
You have a couple of options really.
-Create, create, create & keep it all to yourself *that's a shame though, we want to see what you're creating please*.
-You can then go lengthy & costly route of getting everything copy written, but honestly who has the time or money for that? Lets be real, not everything you put out there is something you plan to make money from, lots is for the aesthetic & the love of doing it, you just don't want someone else to rip it off.
-Or your other option is to put everything out there, make yourself vulnerable to all the copycats, but also have the luxury of getting to share what you love with the world, be visible to clients & make some lovely follower friends along the way. That's the option I went with.
So having a great social presence with thousands of steadfast followers is incredible & something I'm forever grateful for. As well as having your own personal cheerleaders when you need them the most, it also means having thousands of loyal eyes out there scanning for art thiefs, so the most common way I get alerted to copycats is through you (thank you!!). I'm either DM'd, emailed or tagged in a comment by you pointing out that my image has been copied or simply shared without crediting me & I appreciate it so much, because this usually gets them to credit me accordingly, or the person that's copied me realizes they've been busted so they take the image down. But I have to be honest, as much as I appreciate people taking time out of their day to alert me to it, I still get a sinking feeling when I see them. Art crosses over so much now & it's so easy for people to be 'inspired' by someone else, sometimes even without even being aware of it, all they really have to do is change a small detail & poooof it's theirs, so to be honest there's no real way of stopping this (in my opinion) & in some sense, nothing is ever really new now, we all find inspiration from each other, so even accidental imitation happens to all of us.
Now don't get me wrong, I LOVE it when someone gets in touch to tell me they 'recreated' one of my pieces for their art homework, or that they picked up a paintbrush because they saw something of mine & it made them want to create. That makes me the happiest & this isn't about you AT ALL, I appreciate you from the bottom of my heart. This is more about big brands or creatives stealing for their own personal gain, something I see time & time again with not only myself, but with countless individuals who's talents I appreciate massively.
I do still get nervous posting new things that I'm extra precious about, knowing that they could be reproduced in a heart beat, but I've weighed it up over the years & the mantra of 'if their copying you, you're doing something right' although painful, is a necessary evil in this disposable, fast-paced world we live in.
I've convinced myself not to become too consumed over single designs or pieces. I prefer to look at the bigger picture & try to remember that I can keep coming up with these ideas, the copycats will just keep copying with no real unique content. (well that's what Johnny's told me when I've been sobbing in the bathroom anyway!)
I want to give you an example. A few years ago I painted this map:
No, I wasn't the first person to paint a world map, not by a long shot, but it was the first I'd seen of its kind when I made it (the colors, the layout, the flatlay on a desk etc) & now theres thousands out there. I foolishly posted this image without a watermark - it went viral *yey* but that also meant that it was shared millions of times all over the place with absolutely no credit to me. Most cases were accidental because they'd see it somewhere without credit & just reposted it & if I flagged it with them, some would graciously tag me, but for the most part they'd just ignore my comments / DM's & move on to the next post. This was a big lesson for me & still is (it still pops up in 'recommended images' for me on sites, where theres no sign of the artist *please stop cookies, I don't want to see it anymore!*). A popular blogger posted a 'how to' video of my world map a couple of weeks after I shared it. She credited me on her blog saying my map was totally where she got 100% of her inspiration, bit didn't do the same on her on her Instagram, so I even started getting 'haters' from her following attacking me saying I'd copied her - she did clear it all up in the end, but it was too little too late & a nasty few days that I'd never like to go through again..I now put a tiny opaque logo on my illustrations (I wonder if you've ever noticed?) - I know these could be photoshopped out in a heartbeat, but I figure at least I've done my bit to stop them without taking away from the artwork itself & lets be honest, if they want to go to those lengths, then that's their own crazy problem.
After this I started creating more maps of countries in the same style & yep the same thing happened & still does. Occasionally I'd get 'inspired by Niki Pilkington' which I love (melts my heart to know my work has inspired someone to create), but when it's a blatant copy of any of my pieces with no nod to my work it's always a bit gut wrenching. They say 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery' but it doesn't always feel that way.
So I guess I just wanted to write a quick blog post to let you know that it is a thing, it happens a lot & if you're ever in the same position, don't let it consume you (believe me, it consumed me for a while). Know that you came up with that idea & you can keep coming up with more. Sure it sucks that someone is getting credit for your work or even making money from it, but just keep moving forward & keep doing what you're doing. Create a style that you want to be known for & own that aesthetic. Your true fans will appreciate you for it & you'll be a happier person if you can just rise above it.
Can you relate to this? I'd love to know your thoughts below & any tricks you have to keep your work safe & sound. Also don't forget, if you have a topic you'd like me to post about, comment on this post on my Instagram - I'd love to keep hearing your suggestions (I'll get through them all I promise!)