Give credit to your inspiration

Getting out of your own field and hearing what OTHER creatives have to say about making art is powerful. Otherwise it becomes this tight little loop of the same conversations and the same ideas. I'm feeling claustrophobic just writing about it!

The issues are the same but how they are expressed and the conclusions drawn are fresh and inspiring.

Lately I've been thinking again about copying vs. inspiration and giving credit where credit is due.

Time Magazine

Time Magazine

Last year I had a conversation with Jen from Classic Play about it. Today it's professional chefs having a conversation about copying (David ChangSat BainsDaniel Patterson, and Claude Bosi). (As an aside, I ate at Ma Peche on my latest trip to NYC. A month ago the man ate at Momofuko in Toronto. Both worth it).

The conversation took place at Fishermans' Wharf in San Francisco and was part of an episode of Chang's series Mind of a Chef, narrated by Anthony Bourdain.

The series itself it hit or miss - some episodes I've enjoyed, some I've zoomed through. But I do like that it's something different.

So how DO Michelin-starred chefs think about copying and giving credit?

"Everyone copies"

- David Chang 

We all copy. I'll go one step further - we all SHOULD copy. No matter what creative field we are in, no matter what method you use, we can only learn by doing. We're apprentices. Our learning is a lifelong apprenticeship. It's hands on learning.

Take what attracts you, break it down, try to copy/emulate/reproduce it. Understand HOW that other person did what they did.

Then make it your own. And give credit of course. ALWAYS give credit.

"If you are honest, you'll always walk away with integrity"

- Sat Bains

That's the giving credit part. And I'm not talking just about crediting photographs and artwork (not to Pinterest, to the original source). We're all doing that, right? And asking permission before we use someone else's work, even if it's a blog post that's complementary? (The Brinsons taught an excellent Alt Channel class on copyright recently - if it's offered again, take it!).

How about giving credit to our inspiration? Perhaps a little "inspired by" comment? Why not be transparent about our influences? Doesn't that make a fuller story behind our original interpretations?

Why not show that you understand the masters in your field by giving credit to your inspiration?

"Chefs need to know where their techniques are coming from"

- David Chang

All creatives do. None of us create in a vacuum. None of us can truly appreciate the work of others either without understanding the lineage of technique and expression. Doesn't mean you have to love the old styles or worship the old ways, just that you need to master them and understand them. 

"It's not about copying, it's about voice. Writing, cooking, same thing"

- Daniel Patterson

But isn't that okay? Doesn't that take some heat off? Relieve a little pressure? It ISN'T about coming up with something that no one else has ever written or drawn or painted or designed. It IS about finding your voice, your style, your interpretation. YOUR view.

"Get in your kitchen. Cook. Talk to your friends. Share what you're doing...and have a good time"

- Daniel Patterson

Initial talent might give you a quick "win" when you are starting out. You might look good against all the other beginners. After that? It's a slow, steady progression to improve your work. 

There are no short cuts. It's about doing the work, copying the masters, giving credit to sources AND inspiration, and knowing the lineage and history of your field.

So what do you think about copying and giving credit?