Creative Theft: I Stole Dali’s Dove

Creative Theft: I Stole Dali's Dove, by Terre Britton

Creative Theft: I Stole Dali’s Dove, by Terre Britton

“Art is theft.” ~ Pablo Picasso

The day after Thanksgiving Florida-based artist and designer Terre Britton (@TerreBritton) stole Dali’s dove. While her act was brazen and her confession unremorseful, I suspect that Austin Kleon — author of Steal Like an Artist and Newspaper Blackout — would congratulate her creative theft and probably even encourage her to steal more!

“What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.” ~ Austin Kleon (Steal Like an Artist)

Here’s Britton’s confession, published on her blog, TerreBritton.com:

I Stole Dali’s Dove is based on… [a] sketch I produced… nearly 30 years ago. I had planned to leave the right side of the canvas blank… But then, I happened upon The Ecumenical Council (1960), by Salvador Dali, at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL, and I was wooed by his dove. It’s in the top right of his magnificent canvas. Being that I was grappling with the concept of thievery, I wondered what it would be like to steal someone’s art… so I did! … I feel quite satisfied and, at times, justified at having that lovely little dove accompanying, inspiring, and protecting me. ~ Terre Britton

Britton, co-author of Energetics: The First Order and owner of Terrabyte Graphics, is no stranger to the increasingly strained relationship between creativity and copyright. Nor is she simply cribbing and cobbling for the sake of hitchhiking on the efforts of other artists. As the curator for Creative Flux Britton explores the creative process (which necessarily encompasses creative theft) through her own eyes as a writer and painter as well as the experiences of other creators. Here are a few recent excerpts.

I’m not officially Licensed to Write . . . but I do have a child’s irrepressible imagination.  ~ Ruth Long (Confessions of a Rogue Ink Slinger)

We must dive forward into the agony—sitting there with our face lying sideways on the desk—and discover within it every reason writing is an inanely bad idea… We will lie there and sob. Gnash our teeth… And when we are done, we will know something about life we didn’t know before. We will know how to survive… And then we’ll have something to write about. ~ Victoria Mixon (Going Beyond the Beyond)

I’m convinced that the creative process for fiction writers is a messy mixture of imagination, insecurity, and wee bit of insanity. Combine ingredients, shake well, then get the synapses to start firing, and wait for sheer genius to flow from every pore in your body. ~ Karl Sprague (Enjoy the Ride)

When you have the idea, you next have to figure out how to make it work in practice. It’s one thing to dream, but it’s completely another to engineer the final solution. ~ David Straker (Creativity’s The Easy Bit)

As if intentionally melding these four observations, Britton’s painting is simultaneously placid and wrenching, disturbing and beguiling. The color-play between the eyes and the shirt, the uncomfortable framing, and the bouquet of textures (hair, shirt, feathers) all contribute to the painting’s unnerving impact. Certainly Britton has not copied Dali’s Ecumenical Council!

Her creative theft is a visual footnote to Dali’s painting, not an imitation. Her painting is a mashup/remix of diverse elements — a black and white sketch she completed three decades ago, a nod to Dali’s dove, and unconventional cropping/coloring choices — which result in a totally original and highly creative image. Proof positive that creative theft provides valuable, if not essential, ingredients for artists. After all, as Kleon reminds us, “The artist is a collector”, selectively culling ingredients gathered along life’s adventure, and then weaving these ingredients into art. Bravo, Terre! Keep stealing! Creative theft serves you well.

2 Comments to “Creative Theft: I Stole Dali’s Dove”

  1. George, I thank you sincerely. I’m not sure if my heart or mind will recover anytime soon from being awash with gratitude over this. You are amazing! What an insightful tribute and generous review. I simply love the idea of being a visual footnote to Dali~*

    Thank you, also, for including Ruth Long (@bullishink), Victoria Mixon (@VictoriaMixon), Karl Sprague (@karlsprague), and David Straker (@changingminds)—just four of the many excellent writers at Creative Flux—their take on the creative process is apt. You and they possess what I admire most: that raw, jangly nerve dangling in the sea of thoughts and inspiration, prepared to respond to the slightest shift in understanding or inertia of ideas.

    Your Picasso and first Kleon quote are true; plain and simple. And this essay of yours nails the concept; bravo to you!

    And thank you for introducing me to Austin Kleon, in the best way possible, through your kind gift: “Steal Like an Artist.” It was such a thoughtful, bighearted and unexpected surprise.

    And it’s a paperback—a warm hearkening back to olden times.;) I love the tactility of the silk cover stock: warm and smooth to the touch. Sigh. But of course, more significant is its contents. Kleon has jammed it with truths and ideas that I’ve known, loved, didn’t know or still need to discover.

    And besides all the “stealing” stuff, one of Kleon’s best pieces of advice is, “Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.” Starting my art blog required that deep breath of Courage to jump into the void; you know the one. ;) The blog is young—I haven’t even named it yet—it’s evolving organically—my preference, being that I’m allergic to most rules—and I’m still not sure where it’s going, but it’s an adventure!

    George, again, thank you. Your two-fold gift couldn’t be more timely—and in my eyes, auspicious.

    And if I may steal a line from Joan of Arc, my revision is in brackets: “I am not afraid [to steal] . . . I was born to do this.”

    Who’s with me?!

  2. virtualDavis says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. And complements. And courage! Keep diving into the void, and returning to blog your adventures, especially your art adventures. I’m pleased that you are enjoying Kleon’s book. I suspect the two of you will cross paths before long. After all, you were born to do this!

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