I am sometimes confused between the words influence and inspiration. My simple way of defining influences are the things, events or people that move you in a particular direction while inspiration is the result of those influences which motivate you to create. Others may have more succinct or academic definitions, but, for now, this one works for me.
What do you think of when you hear the phrase “creative influence?” Was there a teacher or mentor early in your development who influenced you? Or, were you influenced by a thing or event that pushed you in a specific creative direction? If you are like me, it was a combination of all of these and more. It can be very enlightening to think about who, or what, has led you down the path you are now on. It is important to think through and acknowledge your influences and figure out how they came to inform your art.
Are you drawn to a beautiful passage in a painting where you see the artist’s hand in the dynamic brushwork? Are you put-off by the concept of shock art? Or, are you intrigued by an installation which uses sound, light and imagery to make a social statement?
Influences, by their nature, are varied. I am intrigued by the abstract expressionistic work of Robert Rauschenberg, the abstract paintings of Richard Diebenkorn and the haunting watercolors of Andrew Wyeth, to name a few. All different. All valid. All are part of my creative psyche now. If you can think through what draws you to an artist you can use that knowledge—that influence—to make your work better. Not to imitate but to aid in developing your own ideas and to find your own voice.
Creative influence is like a living organism. It grows and spreads from your palette to the next palette by sharing and doing. It can also wither and die if it is not continually nurtured. Aside from creating, part of our job, in my opinion, is to recognize and absorb that which influences us and to recognize that we, in turn, may be an influence on others. For me, deciphering how my influences fit into my creative vocabulary was a long journey with many side trips. I am still trying to figure out some of them as I continually discover new ones.
This post is only skin deep on the topic of influence. There will be more to come in future posts. And like I say, I’m just tryin’ to make small talk.
Sidebar: In my research about what an artist blog is supposed to be, I discovered it should emphasize a new work in progress or thoughts on the bloggers art. Most seem to speak indirectly to potential collectors about the artist’s process and what the influences or inspiration was for that work—all in an effort to make a sale. I do not disagree with that philosophical approach. However, my blog strategy is to share bits and pieces of who I am through the topics I write about. Hopefully, the compilation of postings is a more complete picture of me as an artist and as a person. (Research also says use visuals for good content. Not there yet, but working on it!)