Monday Motivator: Embrace Influence

“All artists’ work, if it ever sees the light of public day, enters that public domain to invite the response of a public among which artists themselves are numbered. And all artists are creatures of their time and place, and the art alike of past and present is not to be banished. Bound by no oath of creative isolation, they are entirely free to take from the work of others just what they find useful, or stimulating, or necessary to the work of the moment. The artist who admits no influence, betrays no curiosity, claims the uniqueness of his vision, is hardly an artist at all.”

William Packer, “Tain-Shan Schierenberg”, 2005, page 14

Whether we hate a painting (“what were they thinking?”) or love it (“wish I’d painted that”) or are intimidated by it (“I could never do that”), looking at other people’s art expands our own in ways that are unpredictable. It’s like trying different mediums; the outcome is rarely what you think beforehand and delights can come from unexpected directions.

Creating a copy of a painting has a long tradition in Western art. Besides the technical aspects of paint manipulation, it makes you spend more time looking at a painting that we typically do. If you’re working from a postcard you bought in the gallery shop, you’ll have to extrapolate to create a larger painting because the information isn’t there. If you’re working from a zoomable photo on a museum website, you could stress far too much time trying to replicate every single brushstroke. Be like Goldilocks and find a middle point that sees you painting your own version informed and inspired by the original but not trying to be an art forger.

Claude Monet (1840-1926), Wisteria, 1917-1920, oil on canvas, 150,5 x 200,5 cm, Kunstmuseum Den Haag.

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