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Jeff Soto: Imitation Art

Written by Jeff Soto   
Tuesday, 24 April 2007 11:07
Jeff asks, is imitation a form of flattery? Artists straight biting other artists?
Jeff on the art imitation problem, scroll down.

Way too long since I last updated this thing. Too much negativity on the news lately so I won’t even go there. Let’s keep this light and happy today shall we?

Been keeping busy with a job for Extra Gum (which was my gum of choice in high school), and been painting/drawing for my September show at Jonathan Levine Gallery. So I’ve been grinding away in the studio the past month, not a whole lot happening (which is why there’s no blog updates lately).

Hmm, so what has been going on? I must have had some adventures this past month? Hmmm....

Brad Keech from Pressure Printing came out for a studio visit. What an awesome guy. I took him to Tio’s Tacos which is this Mexican restaurant in Riverside with a crazy/cool sculpture garden. He has some super secret stuff he’s working on with a very well known artiste, I better not say anymore. As for myself, we’re planning on doing an etching at some point, probably after my NY show when I have more time. Stay tuned.

Brad is making a few new prints of an old plexiglass plate I scribed in 2005 in RCC printmaking class. I only made one press at the time and it turned out pretty cool. But then I dropped the class.

Easter was fun, the whole family came out and stuff. Shannon had a great time, especially playing in my parent’s pond thingy. Lots of eggs to be found. Some had money in em'! That last photo is by my brutha Tim of his GF Karen. It's all Batman-villain looking sideways.

Got a new phone, one of them razor ones. Had my old trusty one for like 5 years, and there was no way to get all the old contacts off it. So I’m doing it all manually. Yuck. Uh, I think my phone just permanently died just now when I scanned it. I can’t turn it on! Shit! R.I.P. old phone? R.I.P all my contacts? Maybe it's good to start fresh.

Our mailbox got tagged by some white power dumbshits. The assholes also tagged on some cars and people’s garage doors in the neighborhood. I painted over it right away. Losers.

A couple weeks ago Jennifer’s parents came over and I said, “I feel like I should be wearing kelly green too”. They looked around and started laughing. Strange when that happens huh? I had to take a photo to preserve the moment. I don’t know why the donkey is in there, and I don’t know why Ralph is muzzling it...

I saw a UFO but it was too far away by the time I pulled over, plus my camera sucks. It looked really weird, like a balloon with dark stuff in it and tentacles hanging down. Maybe some sort of weather experiment from UCR? Maybe a Metroid? It sorta feaked me out.

I’m working on new paintings and a wall installation. Tons of sketches and doodles, gonna get busy up in dis shit soon. september is coming fast. and yeah, that is Snoop dee oh double gee.

I'm doing a zine and a 2008 calendar with Mark Murphy. It's looking pretty rad. Email him for more info...

Just finished and sent off a new piece to Art Prostitute Gallery in Dallas. It’s called “Stars Over the Hanging Gardens of Babylon”, acrylic on wood, 12” x 22.5”. The show starts April 28th.

And, lastly, I’m dealing with artists who are imitating mine and other’s work. They say imitation is a form of flattery but when people are doing stuff very similar in style to what you’ve been doing for years and they’re selling it, it’s more of a slap on the face. I am not naming any names but I’ve seen alot of imitation the past couple of years and it’s getting worse. The good thing is that for some reason people tend to copy the stuff I was doing right out of school- sun rays (hehe which I copied from Alex Gross), robots, boxes with wings, etc. It still sucks. I don’t know if the artists are to blame or the galleries that show them. Or it could be the buyers who are supporting this. So here’s some advice for everyone...

Artists- if you find yourself with a lack of ideas or have trouble finding your style, DO NOT take the easy path. Don’t look at who’s successful and steal their ideas. Do not copy them. Do not imitate them. This might help you sell some paintings, you may even sell out a show or two. But in the long run it will come back to bite you in the ass. You’ll be but a flash in the pan. A one hit wonder. If you are a serious artist and you make art because you have to, it’s in your soul, it’s in your heart, you will eventually find your own style. I’m not saying it will be easy. It takes sacrifice, dedication, and experimentation. And once you think you found your style, throw it all away. Because your shit will get stagnant if you don’t keep evolving. The artists who are copying will not be around in a couple years. Watch. *Note- it’s alright to be a little derivative right out of school, no one can help that. But if you’re out of school for a while and selling your paintings and deep down you know it’s not totally original, then it’s time to refocus and get onto a better path.


Galleries- You have a responsibility to show original work. When you show work that is overly derivative, it cheapens your gallery and the entire “scene”. This scene is small. Really small actually. If you are showing work in this genre you should have at least an understanding of who the artists are, what their work looks like and where they have shown. You have to have the backbone to be able to tell artists to come back in a year with new work if it’s derivative. Galleries used to be tougher. It was special if your work got in. It meant you were making original, thought provoking work. Realistically not everyone is going to be able to show Viner or Camille Rose Garcia, but that doesn't mean you should find someone who is making similar work. There are tons of young artists out there who are deserving, hard working, eager and super original. Go find them. Promote them. Teach them. There are tons of young artists out there who are copying. They will come to you. Educate them. Push them. Be honest with them. They will return better artists.


Buyers- You’re gonna hopefully buy a piece of art because you love something about it. Investing in art is not bad either. I hope you also really research the artists you are interested in (especially if you're looking at it as an investment). It’s hard to keep track of everything but try to stay informed. Most of the artists being copied have shown at some time at La Luz de Jesus (now Billy Shire Fine Art), Jonathan Levine Gallery, Merry Karnowsky, New Image Art, BLK/MRKT, etc. They have higher standards and will never show anything derivative. Research some of these galleries that have been around for a while (there are more, don’t limit to those I mentioned), get back copies of Juxtapoz, Giant Robot, check out American Illustration, there are also some great books on the subject. Most artists also have their resume’s listed on their websites. In short, do your research. Unless you don’t mind buying work that may be derivative, and that’s your prerogative (cue Bobby Brown here).

So that’s my little rant about this situation. I’ve talked to a lot of people about this and everyone agrees that it is getting to be a widespread problem. Any ideas on this? What are your thoughts? {moscomment}

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