What is the difference between imitation and mimicking? When an artist copies someone else work, they have no interest in the intent of the original artist. They just want to to steal some glory.
When you imitate art work, you are studying the original art. The process of dissecting someone else’s process in order to understand the solutions given. How to light. Balanced composition. Maybe its a suggestive brush technique but what ever it is, someone has solved it and social learning requires studying what has come before you. This speed the learning process along until social learning is futile.
Matt Hodel and Chris Boyle walk you through a 5 part series about learning and exploring art.