We’ve always been told great artists do not imitate but they steal meaning they feed on environmental inspiration. But Faulkner allegedly phrased it as “Immature artists copy, great artists steal.” Pablo Picasso put it simply as“Good artists copy, great artists steal.” This saying regularly inspires artists, thinkers, and dorm-room poster designers. This statement sometimes entirely misinterpreted
“Steal” here doesn’t mean “plagiarize;” that doesn’t turn anyone into a great artist. It explicitly doesn’t mean “copy.” So what’s left? Plenty.
However, Artist Adam Kurtz, author of creative / controversial inspiration books explained the difference between copying and stealing over email. One is imitation, the other is inspiration. “The difference,” Kurtz says, “is intent.” Imitation is laziness or refusal to accept your influences. Inspiration is recognizing that influence and turning it into something new. A painting should be the fruit of the inspiration of an artist and be an inspiration to a viewer.