Few weeks ago, I shared a lettering piece on Instagram, which I had made while watching Ian Bernard’s workshop on cursive lettering. I posted it on Instagram and thanked Ian in the caption too. Ian saw my posted and left a nice comment. It was all good…until I asked him to go through my feed and give me feedbacks on how I could improve.
The first thing he noticed was my lettering pieces which I had copied from hand lettering artist – YouBringFire and Bob Ewing, and had posted it without proper credit to them in my post (A cliche beginner’s mistake). Ian immediately mentioned those guys in the comment section of those post and told me to solve this issue before he could give me any feedbacks. I freaked out a little and edited the caption of each of those post by giving credit to the original artist from whom I had copied the lettering from. I apologized for by behavior and told them I’d delete the posts if they want. All of them were really cool to let me keep my lettering up on my feed.
I still think that copying is the best way to get better at something quickly. You have to look like many others before you find your style. If I had started practicing lettering from the beginning again, I would still copy those guys, but this time, I’d steal like an artist.
How to Steal Like an Artist
Don’t copy from one, copy form many:
To be honest, nothing under the sun is original. Everything is a Remix. The only difference is, if you steal from one, its plagiarism; but if you steal from many, it’s taking reference. So, whenever you start a design project, get into a habit of making a Mood board for that project. I mainly use Pinterest for this, but you can use whatever you want. Collect artworks from different artists that match in style. Don’t copy the exact piece, instead, take bits and piece of different artwork, and combine them all to make it your own.
Give credit to the original artist.
Giving proper credits to the artists who inspired your work is not only a matter of good or bad behavior, but also of integrity & values. The original artist has worked extremely hard to create that piece, and you come in, copy the work and share it as your own. By doing this, you are acting like a complete rip-off and a jerk. The online community of designers and artist is very small and strong. If you rip-off someone, I can bet soon or later, another designer, who knows the original artist, will see your work and then feed you to the wolves. You don’t want to be known as the guy who rips-off others work, do you?
Remember, giving reference doesn’t make your work less amazing. In fact, it makes your work even more appealing.
Copy, but don’t share
In the beginning, copy as much as you can with the intent of improving, not sharing. Copying to learn is awesome, but don’t share that piece online as your own. If you are only practicing, you can copy every little details from top to bottom. This is extremely helpful to get your hands comfortable with designing such artwork and understand how the lines and overall structure works together as a unit. This is exactly how art students learn in school – by copying their masters.
I hope after reading this post, you guys don’t make the same mistake as I made in the past. Don’t copy from one, copy form many. Give proper credits to original artist. And copy to improve, not share.
Now, go out there and make good art 😀