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The Fine Line between Inspiration & Plagiarism

issue one : borrowed from before

In 2015, freckles became one of the biggest beauty trends of the year, with the likes of makeup artists Val Garland and Charlotte Tilbury bringing them out to the limelight . There were even special pencils developed to create the “perfect freckle.”

 Val Garland creates this freckled look for Preen. Image via Pinterest.
Val Garland creates this freckled look for Preen. Image via Pinterest.
Charlotte Tilbury adds to Kate's freckles for this Vogue cover. Image via Vogue.
Charlotte Tilbury adds to Kate’s freckles for this Vogue cover. Image via Vogue.

This, however, was not the first time freckles had been in vogue. On June 7, 1965, Diana Vreeland sent a typed memo to her team at Vogue on how she didn’t feel there was enough emphasis on this “delicious coquetry.” (Noun; flirtatious behaviour or a flirtatious manner.) In a nutshell, Vreeland insisted that the error be corrected, and fast!

Since the advent of the internet, the ability for work to reach an entirely new generation means that there is an assumption that these beauty ideas and ideals are new and are attributed to someone to makeup artists of today. The fact is, this couldn’t be further from the truth.  Magazines simply didn’t have the “reach” or the verbatim explanations of trends the way in which we see on social media today.

 From the book:  Diana Vreeland Memos: The Vogue Years: Correspondence from the Vogue Years . Written by  Alexander Vreeland  (Author),  Polly Mellon  (Author)
From the book: Diana Vreeland Memos: The Vogue Years: Correspondence from the Vogue Years . Written by Alexander Vreeland (Author), Polly Mellon (Author)

Side by side

In the run-up to the launch of this issue, I curated a series of images on Instagram to showcase period makeups next to modern day imagery that highlight the constant borrowing from before. This was simply due diligence, because it’s only through research that we learn about past influencers. So while this showcase helped get my point across on the matter, I didn’t do this to simply showcase how we use the past as a sense of reference, but also to highlight how many talented artists make something their own. 

It’s not only vintage looks that are “borrowed.” Many ideas from talented artists are “stolen” via the internet and made famous by the big names in the industry, with little regard or even a mention of where they drew their inspiration from. We’ve seen this countless times in the music industry too. 

On Moodboards

The expectation of a moodboard for an upcoming shoot is not uncommon these days. While I get the concept of presenting a bunch of other artists work to explain to the rest of the team what you are envisaging for a shoot, the request also fills me with absolute dread. 

All it takes is a simple search in Google or Pinterest of any given word to bring up an entire plethora of relevant images. 

We are inundated with ideas and images every single day. Those ideas and images are floating around in our proverbial ether, waiting to be reinterpreted into something new, but can so easily enter our creative space and not be readdressed appropriately. 

Is it ever just coincidence?

Where is the line?

In a recent shoot I did, despite asking the photographer not to send me any images of makeup in his moodboard (I am far more partial to words and art as a tool to get inspired), he did. And, despite the story being completely different, there is one image that, in my opinion, feels far too similar to another well-circulated image of someone else’s work. The thing is, not only is the makeup similar, but the entire composition of the shot is too. I stated my concerns on the day of the shoot, but the image was still published – and as beautiful as it, every time I look it, it gets under my skin.

But where is the line? Whose idea was it? Do I have a right to make claim to a makeup look if the inspiration was not from another person’s work but rather from a concept entirely of its own?

Through the research into this issue’s theme, I have come to realise that nothing is new. There are only new interpretations of ideas. 

A duty of care

I believe that, as artists, we have a duty of care to ensure that when we are presented with a moodboard, we insist that we do not copy another artist’s work. Take inspiration from it, sure, but not to copy. Make it your own.

A memory that stands out very clearly in my mind; I once represented a very talented young makeup artist and she presented me with some “new work” for her portfolio. But the images she had created were EXACT copies of another artist’s work. I knew the images well and identified them immediately. When I called her out on it, her response was: “but the photographer said that is what he wanted me to do.” While I felt that she had a duty of care to stand up for herself (and the other artist’s work) and insist she would not copy work, she felt she had to do what she was told. The relationship between a makeup artist and the photographer and or stylist can often be a tricky one at times, and it is only with time and experience that we feel we have the right to make our marks. Word of wisdom, regardless of if you are starting out or you are an established artist – you always have the right to make it your own!

Austin Kleon’s book: Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative offers some interesting advice on how to be creative.  

“Nothing is original, so embrace influence, collect ideas, and remix and re-imagine to discover your own path.

Follow your interests wherever they take you. Stay smart, stay out of debt, and risk being boring—the creative you will need to make room to be wild and daring in your imagination.”

untainted |ˌənˈtān(t)əd| adjective
not contaminated, polluted, or tainted: the paper was untainted by age.

UNTAINTED is a directional beauty platform, pushing the boundaries of clean, sustainable beauty. We are inspired and motivated by the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-sabi.

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