A friend of mine gave me an old copy of Beadwork Magazine because I was interested in a technique in it. But I read through the rest of it, too, and discovered that the beading world is wrestling through some of the same issues of copying/ copywrite/ originality that the art quilt world struggles with. The SAQA group list is currently discussing whether or not an award winning quilt is original; the Quilt Art list just got done with its semiannual discussion of copywrite. My universes collide.
I'm not sure that very many would-be artists set out to copy someone else. They do it because they need to follow a template to learn, or they don't think they can do it on their own--having been convinced somewhere in childhood that they're not 'artistic'. And that's ok at the beginning
But I believe that if you're going to grow as an artist, if you're going to find your own voice, you have to be willing to take that step off the cliff and hope that there's a ledge not too far down that will shelter you until you are ready to make the next step.
In addition, once your artistic voice starts to make itself heard, you may not be able to copy anyone anyway--you'll have to add your own touches, change things up here and there. That's why I left traditional quilting, why I started to believe that maybe I could be an artist after all.
My current inspirations are wispy, organic, hard to describe. If you asked me what inspired a certain piece, I could often only speak in generalities--the work I've been doing in the last couple of weeks was inspired by a hillside of blooming redbuds--but you might have a hard time figuring that out from looking at the work on your own.
So if you're just starting in the artistic life, step away from the safe. Try something on your own. It'll be fine, no matter how it turns out--no lives will be lost here. You'll learn something. And you might surprise yourself.