For millennia art students have developed their skills through copying. Art students would copy the work of their teacher, later students could purchase permits to copy paintings in museums. With the advent of a high quality photographic images it was inevitable that students and artists alike began copying them. It is by all extents and purposes a natural progression.
But what exactly is the next step?
The next step is making art.
There is of course no consensus on what is art and what isn’t. The Oxford Dictionary defines art as “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.“
The keywords in this definition are: creative, expression, and imagination. There certainly is skill required in copying a photograph, but the activity lacks in creativity, imagination and expression, so by definition copying something isn’t art in the true definition of the word.
To progress from student to artist requires work that contains creative, expressive and imaginative ideas. It requires the individual to move beyond what only is seen into what also is felt. It sometimes requires less emphasis on the demonstration of mechanical skill and more of an emphasis on emotional and intellectual skill sets.
The difference only becomes apparent once the individual transitions into the next stage of their creative development. It can be a difficult thing for anyone to do especially if they are receiving accolades for their mechanical abilities. Many get trapped in the circle of praise only to miss the creative journey entirely. What lies beyond is the most beautiful.