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Happy Plagiarisms

Sunday I taught a painting-and-refreshments fundraiser at my church, the subject of which was a classic Bob Ross landscape. This painting had been chosen by ballot of those who had bought tickets. Considering the constraints under which we were working--using cheap acrylics when Bob Ross used oils and no painting knives or fan brushes, which Ross made famous--we did all right.

We did better than all right. We did great! And more importantly, people had a fantastic time. When it came time to clean up, some didn't want to leave.

Even though Bob Ross, by the very nature of his teaching method, INVITED plagiarism, I always feel guilty and a bit cheap when I copy another artist. It's not like this was the first time. I have copied Van Gogh, Picasso, and Georgia O'Keefe. While I get a little bit of a thrill out of my ability to lay my own style aside for a day to "channel" someone else's, I end up feeling like I SHOULD be making my own art. What's really sick is that I suffer these pangs of guilt despite the fact that I'm doing it in order to demonstrate to a class!

So, in order to keep my self concept out of the dumpster, I come up with rationalizations. Freud (Sigmund, not Lucien) would call these "defense mechanisms." One of them is that the exercise of copying the masters is at the foundation of a classical art education (at least as I have heard, since I never HAD a formal art education.) Here's my favorite rationalization. Think of those people who paint and draw hyper-realism, which is photorealism that's SO real that it looks like a high definition photo. They're plagiarizing REALITY.

So there. I feel better now. Happy trees, anyone??

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