Nothing New Under the Sun: The Art of Making Something Your Own

There really isn’t anything new under the sun—especially these days. Take The Lion King for example. By now, most of us know that this particular Disney classic was based off of Shakespeare’s legendary play Hamlet—but there’s more to the story. In fact, Shakespeare’s Hamlet is nearly identical to a 12th Century Scandinavian legend about Amleth the prince of Denmark.

Even though The Lion King and Hamlet were both re-creates of a centuries-old legend, it doesn’t make either the movie or the play any less remarkable as standalone pieces of art.

When you take a step back from the creative process, you start to notice that everything is connected—and that’s ok! In order to create, we all need material to work with.

So, is it possible to take something that’s already in existence and use it to create a new and unique piece of art? Absolutely. Here’s how:

Know the difference between plagiarism and inspiration

Taking someone’s concept or creation and trying to directly pass it off as your own is plagiarism. Plain and simple. Using someone’s concept or creation to inspire something new and original, however, is a completely different story.

The movie Clueless is another great example of this concept in action. Based off of Jane Austen’s Emma, the basic plot of Clueless is more or less identical to the literary classic—yet the people who created Clueless took Austen’s classic and made it their own. Can you imagine Austen casting the role of Emma to a valley girl? That was the vision and style of the Clueless screenwriter and director at work, and the result was a fun, iconic and unique movie.

Use your personal style to make your creation unique

For my jewelry designs, I use nature as my inspiration. The leaves, rocks, rivers, and stars were here long before I was, yet I use their creation as a starting point for my handmade jewelry. The artwork of Mother Nature is where I draw inspiration for the patterns and textures in my metal work. The result is my unique spin on nature as wearable art. In fact, many people are inspired by nature—but we all see it a little differently and can put our own touch on how we use and interpret nature to create.

If you’re hungry for more tips on how to create something new using existing concepts for inspiration, I recommend checking out the book Steal Like an Artist. An excerpt from the book states, “You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself…creativity is everywhere, creativity is for everyone.” You’ll find that the beauty of art isn’t the uniqueness of a concept, but the individual mark we put on universal truths. 

Lori Gottlieb