Inspiration Or Influence?

Keeping inspiration and resources private compared to sharing them with others has become the norm, but the fact of the matter is: if you’re too afraid to share your sources of inspiration perhaps you’re too influenced by them.

Having a wide variety of inspiration and resources ensures you aren’t being directly influenced, and by sharing them with others you’re doing two things:

  1. Forcing yourself to create outside of your inspiration
  2. Building trust and becoming a resource

When your audience is aware of your resources there is no room for direct influence which puts you in a position to be more inventive and forces you to develop more original ideas. Being in this a position is very uncomfortable and challenging which is why so many people avoid it because it is very tempting and easy to copy or borrow aspects of existing work, but by taking the step to share your inspiration is to take a step towards bettering yourself. You may find yourself asking, “Do I really need to share my inspiration?” The answer is yes because to even question it reveals an attachment to your inspiration which could indicate you’re too influenced by it. To wonder if your work is too similar to another’s or fear that you’ll be accused of copying immediately indicates that your work is either too similar or the result of copying.

Reverse engineering as a means of learning is incredibly efficient and effective; however, creating work using this method lacks creative integrity when published. I learned by copying those who I was inspired by, but I felt as though it was necessary to hide my sources of inspiration and keep my favorite artists to myself because I didn’t want to get caught. I’ve traced over other artists’ work, repurposed it slightly, published it, and then I sat back with my fingers crossed, holding my breath, and hoping that no one would notice. Admittedly this is an unethical design practice, but I went through this in my middle school days so I try not to beat myself up about it too badly. Luckily I was called out on it early on, but it was honestly hard to deal with. The first time this happened it was a reality check for myself, I had always gotten away with it and I didn’t know what to do.

Until recently I struggled with finding my own voice and my own style, I kept finding myself being influenced by artists I followed, but hesitant to share anything in fear that I was just copying other people’s work. I didn’t know how to be original. Still I struggle with finding my own style and continually find it difficult to be original at times, but more recently I’ve found comfort in this struggle. I realized that hiding my inspiration allows me to be secretive which in turn makes me more vulnerable to copying so the only way to discourage myself from going down that road again was to begin sharing it all. By developing a transparent process which also revealed my sources of inspiration I was no longer able to be overly influenced by them. To share all of my resources is to put it all on the line — there is no room to copy.

Unfortunately, most often we aren’t even aware of just how influenced we are, and it takes someone else to call us out on it for us to notice. Despite our innocent intentions by that moment it’s too late; a mistrust is created. Don’t let yourself get there. Even if you think you’ll never be in that position it’s still important to share your inspiration if you want to build a relationship with those who follow you and further engage with them. Being secretive and keeping resources for yourself only projects an untrustworthy image. Sharing your resources helps out other people by broadening their sources of inspiration which means later they’ll look to you for more resources, and it shows people that they can always expect you to produce original work.

Signs that you’re too influenced by your inspiration:

1. Keeping your inspiration and resources private and hidden
2. When someone see’s your work they relate it to someone else’s

Ways to avoid being too influenced:

1. Share your inspiration

2. Work from memory

“Drawing horses from memory is more fun than tracing them.” – Mary-Kate McDevitt

3. View images at large quantity and small scale

Refrain from viewing images at full scale and instead view 100 thumbnails. Determine what makes them all aesthetically pleasing and work from memory rather than obsessing over the details. Make your own details; solve your own problems.

Something to take away:

Your tools and resources are not your skills and abilities. Do not fall victim to the false perception that your inspiration is yours or is what enables you to create your work. Practice will always trump inspiration.

You can find all of my inspiration on I’m constantly adding to it and soon there will be an update to all of the categories (you’ll be able to filter through different type styles and other cool things) as well as a design update to make it easier to view images at large quantity.