Home > For the sailors: Hone your innovation skills > Creativity starts with copying

Creativity starts with copying

What do these two paintings have in common?

While Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) is world-famous, The first communion, painted 12 years earlier, would only be recognised by experts or serious connaisseurs.

Well, both are Picasso’s!

What does this tell us?

Firstly, that even the most innovative geniuses need their formative years: one does not revolutionise painting without having learned painting in the first place. And copying is a large part of what it takes to learn. Even a child prodigy such as Picasso first had to learn his art by painting (at the age of 15!) The first communion in a very 19th-century-style mix of classicism and realism.

Only a decade later, Picasso’s work had become truly revolutionary. Yet, some form of copying is at the root of Picasso’s creativity, as Les demoiselles d’Avignon appear to be seriously influenced by Cezanne’s use of space and by African art. There is nothing wrong with such “copying”: one does not innovate in an ivory tower, but has to get out, absorb influences, make connections, and let it happen.

Conversely, what is it, then, that makes people say “I am not creative”? Not getting out enough, not opening up to external influences is certainly a key factor. But there is something more fundamental, which is the reluctance to copy, the fear that the influences will show through what they produce, the impatience to innovate: Seeking to be creative is a sure way to fail.

To innovate, start by copying, again and again, and trust that creativity, which is part of human nature, will find a way to express itself.

  1. Rashi Gupta
    December 28, 2010 at 09:34

    Creativity starts with copying- this is a very inspriring thought for me…because I started with copying but I felt I was not being creative. And then I thought probably I am not meant to be. I am too analytical to be creative. But I now realise that even in those long phases of copying, there were moments where I was creating and finally putting up all the copying together in a way it represents your style is also creatively: something i failed to recognise earlier. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. December 29, 2010 at 18:42

    Hi Rashi, thanks for the comment. Glad to be of help.

  1. October 28, 2010 at 09:42
  2. March 30, 2013 at 18:24

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: