There was once a painter who could not come up with any original ideas. He was a master copycat. He yearned for a unique idea, yet his mind failed him. He could only reproduce what already existed.
Desperate to change his situation, he travelled all around the world. He seeked for someone to help him discover the meaning of originality. How to come up with his own ideas. How to stop being an echo.
Across several countries, he met countless people. Some sneered at him, considering him a fool. Others attempted to help, yet their advice was shallow as a puddle. It seemed to him that no one could help him in his torturous situation. He set sailed for a different continent. A change of culture may jog his brain, he thought.
He embarked in a perilous journey. A precarious dinghy sailed across the ocean. Many sleepless and terrifying storms accosted him throughout the way. His life was a plaything for the whims of nature. Time passed, and he reached his destination.
An exotic, distant land, devoid of his culture’s viewpoints awaited him. The architecture, the way people treated each other.
Everything was different. New. Unique. Could this be what he needed to grow as an artist?
He looked around, asked for directions and at last found the way to a renowned artist’s atelier. Certain that he’d provide the answers needed to become a real artist, he walked to his place.
Located in a remote part of town, away from the bustling market centre and living quarters. Hidden in an alley, as if forgotten by time itself, he found this artist’s studio. Incapable of detaching himself from his culture, he knocked the door as a sign of politeness. He heard angry stomps approaching the door. With one swift movement, the door opened.
He met face to face to who would be his master. A wrink-ridden, hunchback, decrepit shell of a man. His eyes were full of life and determination, in contrast with the rest of him.
He stared at his potential pupil up and down, to gouge his worth. He wasn’t convinced, yet invited him in.
The master’s atelier was humble, most of it falling apart and covered in artwork. It’s work was of overwhelming beauty to the pupil, for he saw nothing ever close to it before in his life. Could his master know what originality meant and how to achieve it?
His master handed him a dirty dish. It contained what it seemed to be tea. The pupil, somewhat apprehensive, took a sip. It wasn’t tea, but mud. The master roared laughing.
“You’ll never make it in this world if you don’t bother questioning what’s in front of you, at all times”, the master said. The pupil’s face reddened. Indeed, naiveté was a fool’s virtue.
The conversation continued. The pupil explained his plea to his master. How he couldn’t come up with any original work. He was able to copy with no flaws whatsoever, and that’s about it. Not one work of his seemed worth anything to him.
Hearing this, the master answered “Why are you obsessed with originality? What does originality mean to you?”. The pupil started thinking long and hard but couldn’t come up with a retort.
The pupil tried to break down the awkward silence. He struggled to keep the conversation going. And so he said “Art is all about being unique and original. No one wants more of the same. It’s all about innovating, reinventing yourself in a constant manner.”
The master scoffed at such comment, and answered: “Art is about refining one’s own talents. Some fall in the endless abyss of self-doubt, never figuring out who they are. What I see in front of me, is someone who knows who they are. They know what they can do.
That’s more than what more artists can say, friend”. The pupil stared and pondered if he was wrong all along. Was his quest in search for originality an excuse to escape reality? A way to avoid facing himself? Such questions began to haunt his brain.
The master continued: “You’re not a lesser artist for eschewing the avant-garde. In fact, I’d dare say you’re more of an artist than most. Copying, mimicking, whatever you call it. It takes time. Skill. Effort. Love. A lifetime of dedication. Isn’t that what art is all about?”. At this point, the pupil was at odds with his worldview. Has a flawed perception of reality tainted his thought to such degree?
The two of them kept conversing. At one point, the master decided to stop fooling around and offered his pupil a palatable drink. It was an exquisite infusion, unlike the previous slop.
The master stated: “There are artists as there are people.”
Continuing this, he said “With this knowledge in hand, show the world that you’re an artist, not a copycat. Be confident in your skills and prove yourself worth the attention. The world will answer likewise.” Thankful for his final words, the pupil bid good bye to his master.
The journey to his country of origin felt tame and uneventful in comparison. Once this pupil understood the ways of the world, everything seemed to fall into place. He arrived at his atelier, ready to prove the world his worth, for the first time in his life.