My thoughts on Copycats (and why we need their creative voice)

Emily Jeffords photo by Chris Isham

This post is a bit of a rant and a bit of a plea.  (There.  You have been forewarned).  😉

The theme of the week (year?): people stealing creative ideas and calling them their own. Please, please…. if you are truly an artist (in whatever medium) please respect the struggle and the hard work that other artists have done to arrive at their craft.

Put in your own time, study the work of others (especially the masters), and create something fresh, new, and original.

We need *your* voice – not a replica or variation on someone else’s.  If you are tempted to copy the work of someone else and market it as your own, please think twice.  You have the creative energy to create something remarkable – to say something with your medium that needs to be said.  Do not waste that opportunity echoing someone else.

Your perspective is just as valid as anyone else’s – so show it to us!


I wrote a post about not being afraid of copycats a few months ago, and it still rings so true, but I cannot stand by and watch my friend’s hard work, my own art, and the art of other hardworking makers be replicated by others. Whether by a small scale hobbyist or a big company, stealing is wrong no matter what.

So here is what I ask.
If you see someone’s artwork being replicated or even strongly “inspired by” please stand up for the true artists – the one who put in the time and effort to arrive at that beautiful place.  It can be as gentle as a comment “Beautiful!  Looks like so-and-so’s Painting!” or “Wow!  my friend ____ created something just like this!” — just so people will know that the creative community has strong supporters, people notice, and that stealing is never ok.  At the very least, please let the artist know and he/she can deal with it more heavily if needed.

If you have created something that is inspired by another creative, please give them credit.  They have earned it and you will only look better for being both honest and well researched.  The creative community is quite small, and we are learning that we must stand up for each other.

I know there is a fine line between inspiration and copying, and that there really is nothing new under the sun – but when you feel deep down in your heart that something is crossing a line, call that out and/or make it right.  


Ok, my little rant is over, but I hope it will empower you to be ethical, helpful, and supportive of those who are working hard, struggling daily to refine their art.

If you are an artist – please speak up!  Create! The world needs your voice and your voice is powerful and beautiful.


Emily Jeffords, struggling artist.
Beautiful photo by Chris Isham

Emily Jeffords

Most days you can find me, in the studio with my little girls, speckled in oil paint (drinking too much coffee), creating artwork for collectors around the world and collaborating with select brands. Check out my artwork on


  • Oh Emily – It’s hard to see you write ‘struggling artist’. You are very inspirational to me!
    I love your painting style and it is very heartbreaking that people take the easy road and copy or ‘heavily’ interpret.
    I have taken my envious feelings of artists further along in their careers and worked hard at trialling my own techniques and it is very satisfying to say ‘this is working’ and ‘I think this style could be a winner’ 🙂
    We all definitely need to stick up for each other!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Sometimes it is simply a coincidence. There us an artist on instagram doing work like mine from my grad show. I’m sure he has not ever seen mine. Things just evolve sometimes. I agree with your sentiments on really obvious things.


  • great post! Unfortunately artist at times tend to follow what will generate more revenue or traffic to their sites.. So they are constantly looking to steal or implement the style other implement on their work. I strongly agree that you could put out some unique work and use similar marketing techniques as the successful artist and get same results without having to steal anyone’s work.

    great Idea on calling out ppl by leaving a positive but hinting out they should stay true to their art


  • I’m so glad you are writing about this Emily. I know exactly what you mean by the struggle and years and years of working on your own art and how saddening it can be to discover that someone has copied you. I’m not just speaking for myself, I have witnessed other artists having the same issue (even business owners actually – their ideas get copied all the time too). I do however strongly believe that the truth will always shine and that those who steal simply won’t ever have such peace of mind and a clear consciousness, which I am so glad to have. Cheers to being ourselves 😉


  • Agree! I’ve had someone contact me with links to show who is copying my art. It can be very, very obvious. Especially to the artist. I’m the only one who knows for sure, because I can remember how I arrived at that painting or the creativity that occurred to get there. When I first started creating, I would try and copy others for practice, with the very strict rule to myself that I could not sell a piece that was a replica of someone else’s work. Period. In fact, I would not even share the piece – it was to stay in my home, unseen, or possibly painted over. Grrrrr- the copying pretty much makes one NOT an artist.


  • I respect the struggle ! But every young artist have to learn from the more experienced ones ! Without strealing of course…


  • Hey, nicely written, Emily! You’ve raised a very important issue that deserves attention, especially now, when many people don’t think twice before stealing other’s people creative productions.

    They should know better. Perhaps the only way they would learn how much artists struggle to create a masterpiece would be if they do it themselves. Which is precisely what you seem to suggest.


  • My bad. I accidently reblogged an admired artist. Figured out how to delete it. Sorry. New at this. Was trying to delete it before your rant. Much love.


  • Noted. Thanks for the encouragement to speak up. I’ve been following you for quite a while, and while I joyfully watch you rise to the top (You deserve it!), I’m seeing a LOT of copycats trying to tag along for a free ride. 😦 It upsets me every time I see it! I’ll get more vocal… ;-p


  • Hi Emily,
    I’m an artist friend of Patti Brady’s, and have enjoyed both your work and the very savvy way you market and run your business. I could not agree with you more about copycats. As a college art professor this is a rant I go on at least once a semester. I was searching the hashtag #landscapepainting yesterday on Instagram working on my own marketing when a painting showed up in the feed that at first I assumed was yours. Clicked on it and it clearly wasn’t. Neither the painting nor the photo was of the same quality you post. Even if it wasn’t the copycat you’ve run into, the profile and feed look an awful lot like yours. I’ve sent the link to you in an email to follow up on. I’m sorry that it happened to you.


  • So true. I really loved your words. I most times am afraid to show my works and many works I binned for that reason, thinking I’m not good enough. People should do as they can and as they feel from the heart 🙂


  • Emily, I’m so appreciative that you took the time to write this blog post… more artists need to take a vocal stand on this issue. Imitating other artists’ successful styles is such a huge problem in the art world, especially now that everyone and everything is online and it’s so easy to find art “inspiration” with just a pin or a hashtag.

    Even after being a full-time artist for years I still struggle with how to deal with copycats kindly but forcefully. At the moment there is a woman who has followed me for years, bought my artwork, signed up for a workshop with me… and is suddenly selling work that imitates mine so blatantly that multiple people have commented on it both to her and to me. I’m curious if you have a “go to” way of dealing with copycats of your own work?


  • As a designer-maker, I completely sympathise with this situation and I’ve had my business – from branding to designs to marketing – copied, which resulted in a couple of weeks of AWFUL emails and seeking legal aid.

    BUT I’m also aware that, in a lot of cases, people aren’t copying. I’ve come across a lot of shops that look similar to mine, but aren’t a copy. Us creatives have A LOT of similar ideas and execute them in familiar ways.. it’s really easy to see someone’s work and say “oh that looks like so-and-sos” and automatically assume the other person has copied. But that doesn’t mean we’ve made the right conclusion.

    I see a lot of people “calling out” others, saying they copied when there are only a vague similarities between the work. I think we need to be careful and not assume that just because something is similar, that it’s a copy. The other person might not even know who the “original artist” is.

    I think it’s best to notify the person we believe to be the original artist and notify them of the potential copycat and let that person decide how best to deal with the situation – if there even is a situation. I don’t think publicly calling people out is the right or professional way of going about things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with your comment that people are quick to “call out” others who have no intention to copy. I have two points that I want to make about this: First point is that I was just playing with the “reblog button.” Never used it before. Second point is that admiration is not stealing from someone. Artists should not be so quick to accuse an admirer of “stealing” when they are just admiring. Art is similar to music. When people sing an admired artists’ song, they are not trying to steal it, they are just enjoying the beauty of the artist’s work. Duplication is the highest respect of admiration. The third point (I know I said I had two) is, if you are concerned with theft, you need to make sure you watermark your uploads so they can’t be reused for other purposes. My fourth point is that though the world can be cruel and money hungry, however, everyone is not a thief or has intentions to steal your work so “Do not bear false witness.” My fifth point is they need to get rid of the reblog button or let you add “comments” to the reblog which was my real intent. So there is my rant of the rant.


  • Oh my, great post! I had a friend who was a copycat and always copied my work- then denied it. Thankfully someone stood up for me, and the other artists that were being copied.


  • Emily, a friend told me about this post after it was brought to my attention that an exact copy of one of my paintings of scripture was copied and being sold online. I’m so grateful for the words you shared here and the other linked post. I’m in full agreement and wholehearted AMEN. Grateful to know you and wish we could paint together. xo


  • This has been bothering me a lot lately too. When I scroll through instagram I see soooo many other “artist” who are copying your work, Britt Bass (her circle work), Michelle Armas, and my own (my earlier pieces of Parima Studio). It’s extremely frustrating, and I was venting to my sister about it. But she reminded me that they don’t have the same vision that I have. They will never advance their work/style if they just keep copying other people. And even though I know this may be true, I can help but feel saddened by it every time I find a new copycat.


    • Actually I feel that Britt Bass has also copied Emily’s use of down and upward sweeps with dabbles that look like a filbert brush.


  • I don’t know, why most artists complain about “copied ideas”, but don’t differentiate between copied IDEA and copied definite and precise WORK!
    Otherwise mankind would live still on trees 🙂

    YOU CAN ONLY COPYRIGHT a concrete, definite, precise work!
    All “variations” need to have a certain threshold of originality – only then it is copyrighted.

    And let us be honest:
    most, let’s say, watercolor strokes are not really a huge “threshold of originality” 😉

    So please differentiate between a stolen IDEA (ideas cannot be copyrighted, therefor an idea cannot be stolen) and a stolen definite WORK!


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