“What if they steal your work?” I asked Steve last night.
“Let them.” he answered right away.
I tilted my head, confused.
He picked up his cup of espresso.
“See this drink? It’s not like this shop invented coffee. Or espresso. But look at how many millions of dollars go around just because someone decided to roast some auspicious beans, grind them and boil it in hot water.”
“What does coffee have to do with people stealing your art? I don’t get it.” I continue filling the flowers on my sketchbook with my favorite pastel colors. Dipping the brush into the watercolor and then clear water for a lighter color & a runny finish.
“Okay. Those flowers you’re drawing. The style. Is it new?”
“Nope. But this is my take on it.”
“There. That’s your answer.”
“Huh?” I let my brush rest in the paper cup filled with tap water I asked from the waiter earlier.
He rolls his eyes.
I kick him under the table.
He cringes and bends down to rub his shin.
I stick out my tongue.
“Art is stealing in the first place. Stealing God’s ideas. Well, if there is one. Like you insist upon.” Steve paused, “do you follow?”
“Go on.” I entwined my fingers in a Christian like prayer stretching my digits.
Elbows on the table between us.
“If everybody is busy claiming that their art is stolen. When will they find time to make art? While if you remember what I said before, that an artist’s mind is a bottomless reservoir of ideas. Once an artist realizes this, he should busy himself with giving life to the creations in his head.”
He pauses and takes a sip from my latte.
“We, artists, cannot deny that we live off of each other’s work. As long as we have our senses to absorb our surroundings. As long as we have our abilities to convey them into works of art. Then that is how it goes.”
“Just like loving another. We love not for the sake of being loved in return. We love for the sake of our hearts, so not to be overflown by its own feelings. Feelings it cannot handle, feelings it must let free.”
“Why do you think I make art?” He pointed his pencil case at me like a reporter pointing a microphone to an eye witness.
Caught off guard. Especially after that sudden turn into love and hearts. I stuttered, “Be-because you love doing it.”
“What if it doesn’t pay the bills?”
“But it does. Right?”
“How can you be so sure? Yours doesn’t yet, right?”
“Let’s say, some small distro in Bandung is stealing your designs to put on t-shirts. Who cares? It’s a small distro. If your art allows them to grow. Let them. If they grow, they’ll definitely have to obey commercial guidelines. Only then will your copyright have power against them. And since they’re already big and have a lot to lose, they have to be more careful in using other people’s work.”
“Nice answer, but that wasn’t what I asked.” he smiled. I’ll be damned.
“Geez.. It pays because, there are also people as kind enough as you who realize that growing businesses need leverage as does growing artists. Life is all about being considerate. And art put out into the world should be as selfless as that.” I blurt it out in one single breath.
“That’s my girl” he pats me on the head with his pencil case.
“Watcha drawing there? Another typography? Why not make one in bahasa? Like “Jancok” but with flowery sweet flowers all around. I think I saw something like that somewhere but with “Fuck” written inside.”
“Good idea.” I said with a naughty smile as I smeared some pink paint on his nose with my brush.
Gunung Putri, 9 April 2016
(Inspired by Steve Toang’s art over on Society6)
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