Wait, You Can Plagiarize Art?
Yes, you can, and the consequences can be serious.
Say you turned in a paper for English class, yet you were unaware the kid next to you stole your paper and turned it in before you. Your teacher grades their paper first, only to find yours to be an exact copy. They assume you stole your classmates paper even though you wrote the paper all by yourself and all they did was change the name. Suddenly you’re facing serious trouble and your classmate gets an A.
While this situation is a hypothetical, this is sadly very common in the art world. Copying someone’s work down to the detail and passing it off as your own is a serious offense, and it’s called plagiarism.
You may be asking yourself, I use references is that plagiarism? Well, it depends. If you are drawing a celebrity, that’s not plagiarism as they are a public figure. If you are drawing some photography from a local photographer you found scrolling through Instagram and you post your work without credit, that is plagiarism. Stock images and pictures without copyright on the internet are free to use, but a picture credited to a photographer must be cited or sometimes permission must be explicitly given in order to recreate their work.
A good way to avoid the drama of plagiarism altogether is to use references sparingly and make your drawings unique to your art style. So you’ll need to make the reference you use look different to the finished product. Change the colors or position of the body, use different brushes to make it look like your own creation. (If you’re not sure what I mean, I have an example 🙂 ) Or if you don’t feel comfortable, don’t be afraid to reach out to your local artists on Instagram or send them an email and ask them for permission to use or recreate their work. The art community has a very lovely community and I’m sure many of them would be flattered if you reached out to them and would be happy to oblige.
Overall, just be careful about what you create using references if you are going to share it with others. Be mindful of plagiarism and try your best to avoid it. Sometimes it will be really hard, but making your art look like something you made develops your skills and helps you become a stronger artist.