If you use a publicly available WordPress theme there is chance it will collide with someone else’s. I don’t have time (or money) to build a site from scratch, so I took this theme and customized it to the extent I could. After all, I didn’t design the theme. There is only so much I can change. I drive a Toyota Prius which is a “Sea Glass Pearl” color (Toyota’s name, not mine!). Toyota makes it in only seven colors. So I fully expect one in every seven Toyota Prius owners (of the same year) to have a car just like mine. There is not much to be done about it. I catalog photos with numbers (as perhaps a hundred other people do). My photos are catalogued thusly: medium format 6×4.5 photos are 1000s, medium format 6×6 are 3000s. 35mm photos are 2000s and 35mm photos from disposable cameras are 4000s. All digital camera photos are 8000s and mobile phone photos are 9000s.  My number system serves to easily identify a photo when someone refers to it. I tried to title them at first but I don’t like captions. I used dates and places, but all scans received from a lab on a particular day has the same date and often are from the same place. So I eventually settled on a unique identifier and this was the best way I could uniquely identify them. Any similarity with anybody else’s identifiers is purely coincidental and entirely superficial. Right now, this is a system I use, and I will likely change it in future. (Edit: I have recently changed this to accommodate a flexible cataloging). But all of this is just the website. I don’t consider myself an original website designer and don’t care to become one either. It is the art itself that I am after, not how I show it on the Internet.

So if your website collides with someone else’s, is it a good thing or bad thing? I don’t know. It is not something I want to spend a lot of time thinking about. Would a painter bother to think if the frame for his painting is the same as another painter’s frame? There are things you can be original about: the content of your art, your own voice. Then there are things that are not so important and sometimes you cannot control, out of circumstance or limitation. I am limited by my web design skills to make a more original website. But I don’t think it is fair to say that I copied someone. The content is entirely my own. The format of presentation, not so much. And I have no qualms about that.

Now that that is out of the way, I have a few things to say about copying inspiration itself.

Drawing inspiration is inevitable. I’ll give you three examples, from music, painting and literature to cover several disciplines.

1. Music is temporal art, unlike photos or paintings. It’s beauty only unfolds in time. Unlike a painting or a photograph, which is spatial, you cannot envision the full extent of your work at a glance. I say this to preface the next statement that in the world of music, Mozart is a considered a genius. I consider him the greatest of artists in the most difficult medium. But even Mozart was heavily influenced by his (many years senior) friend Joseph Haydn. You can see the stylistic similarities in their music: the cadence, the phrases, the way it blossoms slowly one note at a time. There are several pieces that Mozart called Haydn pieces that he wrote in the older composer’s style. That’s how everybody starts. They start by copying a great master. In turn, Tchaikovsky was influenced by Mozart and wrote the Mozartiana pieces directly based on Mozart’s music.

2. Pablo Picasso’s early work was stylistic copies of old masters like Raphael, classical realism. You can see examples here: In his blue period he copied Mvnch and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec both in style and subject matter (beggars, prostitutes etc). Later he was influenced by Cezzane and even adapted paintings of Degas. It was only after he had “toured” all these various influences could he settle on his own ground breaking style.

3. In poetry and literature, there are more examples than I can cite without writing a whole book, but to take a few examples, John Keats was heavily influenced by Milton, Virgil and Shakespeare. Keats’ poem Endymion (the one that starts with “A thing of beauty is a joy forever..”) is a lyrical epic poem that reminds you of Virgil and Milton. His sonnets are like Shakespeare’s sonnets. Keats even dissected Shakespeare’s sonnet arrangements, meters and so on. In more contemporary literature, J K Rowling was heavily influenced by J R R Tolkien, so was Isaac Asimov. Both Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Asimov’s Foundation novels found their roots in Tolkien’s writings (Lord of the Rings, Silmarillion etc.)

Not that you should not strive for originality. That’s a worthy pursuit. But know this that there is nothing wrong with being inspired (or even copying as Mozart did Haydn). Everybody has to start somewhere and sometimes you draw inspiration even after you have gotten started on your own. In the movie The Lion King the original score is by Hans Zimmer, who is an accomplished composer, but listen to the part when Rafiqi the baboon is painting inside the big tree and tell me you don’t hear Mozart’s Requiem. These are all accomplished artists, poets, writers, musicians that I mentioned, famous and successful in their own right. But they weren’t shy about taking inspiration from other sources when they needed it. For all we know, Mozart is better recognized than Haydn, Picasso more successful than Raphael, Cezzane, Degas combined. Keats more quoted than Virgil or Milton, Rowling a better selling author than Tolkien.

As we all know, Steve Jobs quoted Picasso when he said “Good artists copy; great artists steal.”