Copy Cat!

I’m not sure if this is just me, but I have always had this tendency to feel guilty whenever I have to replicate a master’s artwork. My art teachers and mentors have always encouraged it, however, there have been numerous times when I have found myself leaning in disagreement. I remember walking through museums absolutely disgusted at the number of college students I saw there--materials all set up as they worked at getting a spitting image of another man’s work. Copy cats! I would think to myself.

I would do it too though, mostly because I had to. “It’s great practice!” my favorite teacher would say,“ as long as it's for educational purposes only and you are not planning on selling the piece.” But I just never understood why it was necessary. I had my very own ideas, and my art teacher thought they were great--so why did I have to take somebody else’s? Whenever I “practiced” art, I’d find myself trying my hardest to cover it up. I was ashamed, and therefore nobody was allowed to see me doing it. Once I was finished, I would hide all of the evidence that implied I had done so as if I had just finished committing some sort of terrible crime. At times, it did really feel like the closest thing to robbing a bank or becoming a professional hacker. That, and that time I was five years old sitting in one of those car-themed grocery store carts as my mom pushed me and I managed to sneak out a sprite without paying (will never forgive myself for that one).

Perhaps my guilt for copying art stems from the fact that I am also a writer. The closest thing that compares to copying a master drawing to me is choosing to plagiarize another writer’s story or essay--something that I fear doing even unintentionally given the circumstances that come along with it. I remember I particularly despised these sorts of assignments in high school, especially if it appeared obvious that I had been a copycat. I would purposely switch up at least 80% of it and end up failing my assignment. “Connie, this project was about copying Monet’s lilies, why are there floating cats in your pond?” my teacher once asked. Whoops!