The Problem with Spongebob

Every year or so a student wants to paint Spongebob Squarepants. Or a Disney character. Or a designer logo. Why? Often it’s because they are afraid to venture beyond what they know they can do. These characters tend to be simple. Line drawings with colour, like a page of a colouring book. 

When I was a kid, I used to draw Snoopy. Over and over. The only challenge was doing it from memory. But I never considered it art. Art was from my imagination or from my heart. It was something that I interpreted from life. Copying was fun. But not art, except to the original artist.

I want my students to take risks. I know from personal experience that risks don’t always pay off. That’s what makes the whole endeavor risky in the first place. And yet, how can someone grow without taking chances. So even if the end result doesn’t work, the act of trying is an act of learning. You learn from mistakes (hopefully). You don’t learn from copying Spongebob.

Yes, there is a tradition of copying from the masters, to learn techniques and composition. Those, too, are copies. Possibly skillful copies. But you can’t exhibit those at a show or sell them, or claim them. It’s not your design, not your art. At least by copying from a master you learn how to achieve certain effects, how to mix paint, how to. But you learn next to nothing by copying Spongebob. He’s an outline, filled in with some flat colour.

So please don’t copy Spongebob if you want to do well, in skill, in creativity, in this class. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *