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Understanding the why

Imitation is copying, Emulation is taking it a step further, and breakthing through into your own thing

This is another quick key idea from Steal like an artist

It's really not enough to just copy someone, it can get you part of the way there, but for me personally, I like to understand the thinking behind 'why' someone is doing the particular thing I'm trying to emulate.

For example, when I'm trying to learn different art styles, I'll first try and get something looking pretty similar to the reference.

Then I'll beging to see if there's any patterns that emerge e.g.

  • Why did they put darker lines here vs there?
  • What sort of shapes are they using in certain scenarios?

Then fairly soon after having a good 'understanding' of what they do, I'll then transfer that thinking onto my own idea. Which would kind of be impossible, or at the very least SUPER inefficient and frutrating if I just copied them.

Here's some notes from the book on understanding the 'why'

“We want you to take from us. We want you, at first, to steal from us, because you can’t steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice and that’s how you will find your voice. And that’s how you begin. And then one day someone will steal from you.” —Francis Ford Coppola

"Comedians try to emulate their heroes, fall short, and end up doing their own thing" - Conan O'Brien

“It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.” Thank goodness. - Conan O'Brien (He tried to be David Letterman, but ended up being his unique self )

Adapt the moves, and make them your own - Kobe Bryant

“I have stolen all of these moves from all these great players. I just try to do them proud, the guys who came before, because I learned so much from them. It’s all in the name of the game. It’s a lot bigger than me.” —Kobe Bryant

  • Transforming your hero's work into your own is how you flatter them
  • Add something to the world, only you can add

Learn my process for stylized digital art

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This is a 7+ hour real-time walk-through filled with actionable, in-context explanations of my thoughts and techniques.