Is It True That ‘Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Plagiarize’?

Is It True That ‘Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Plagiarize’?

People may think that unless they come up with a completely original idea, they are not true artists. Pablo Picasso apparently said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Whether he said this or not is open to debate, but it raises an interesting question. Is it different if you copy another artist’s work or you choose elements of another artist’s work and creatively combine them with other influences to create what’s uniquely your own? There is a difference between the two.

All creative work is iterative 

The reality is that even if you think you have an original idea, you often discover that someone centuries ago had the same idea. Realizing this can give you the creative freedom to use all of your influences without worrying about plagiarism.

There is nothing wrong with using stories you read, the music you listen to, your culture, and much more in your art. Steal from anywhere that resonates with you and fuels your imagination. It’s how you put all the elements together that makes your creation unique. Mark Twain used the example of a kaleidoscope that you turn to make new and curious combinations.

How to avoid plagiarism

Do you think an artist with a painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art could have “stolen” from the work of others? The issue of plagiarism raises questions in many different areas of creativity, from writing an essay to creating a painting or making a sculpture. As a student, you are penalized when you plagiarize the work of others. However, to avoid this, you can use, for example, a free online plagiarism checker by FixGerald to check your paper for uniqueness. Academic honesty matters a lot, and this tool is perfect for students in that regard.

Build upon existing ideas and transform them

Rather than trying to be original, you can focus on how to build upon existing ideas and remix, transform, or improve them. Toshiba and other companies had been manufacturing tablet devices almost a decade before Apple’s iPad was released.

What Apple’s team managed to do was take the device, make it thin and sleek, and easy to use. The concept of search engines was around before Google. What Google did was take the concept and develop a super-easy interface and consistently good search results.

You can evolve from copying

Many artists start off by copying the work of other great artists for practice and evolve from this. You can try to tap into the mindset of those you copy and figure out what inspired them. You will eventually find yourself wanting to make adaptations to what you copy. You will discover your own style along the way. Taking art classes in education can help you develop creativity from an early age. It will give you more confidence to form your own style.

When do artists plagiarize?

Plagiarism is when you deliberately pass someone else’s work off as your own without giving them credit. Even if you tweak it to make it look a little different, this is still considered plagiarism. This violates the right of the artist and goes against the law. If you simply change the original colors, this doesn’t make it yours. It all comes back to your intention – if you copy with the intention of taking advantage of another artist and profiting off their work, it is plagiarism.

Making the work of another person your inspiration or getting ideas from it isn’t plagiarism, especially if you take a few different sources and use them together. You will soon realize how rewarding it is to make your own unique work, and it will help you gain a reputation.

Is It True That 'Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Plagiarize'?

Creative work is a process

In the creative world, your art is likely to go through many phases before you have finished work. By the time you polish it and perfect it, it usually looks very different from when you first started on it. This means that even if you were influenced by the work of another artist, your final product might not resemble it in any way, shape, or form. By the time you have finished, the final picture combines all the elements in completely new ways.


Art plagiarism does not include copying artistic work for practice. It is when you copy someone else’s art deliberately without their consent, and you don’t credit them. Combining all kinds of influences and coming up with something that is uniquely your own do not qualify as plagiarism. Many creators will even take an existing concept and improve on it. Even if you begin by copying, you can evolve and develop your own unique style.

Author’s Bio

Mary Spears is a highly motivated writer who writes user guides for various manufacturing companies and academic assignments for students. She loves writing, and that helps her perform at a high level every time she takes up a new writing job. Her free time is for pencil sketching, sculpting, and listening to soft music.