Sunday, November 28, 2010

Something I was thinking about the other day.

So I was working on my self portrait The other day  (you can see the progression here) But this isn't about that just what I was thinking about while I worked.

While I was working I was thinking about influences... it was kind of tangent my brain went off on (I need to keep the parts that aren't painting entertained somehow)

from the leaping off thought of:

you know a method and you can either boil it down to the basic "How To" technique, you know use tool x with paint b and stroke y,


you can allow other artists to influence you, and try to copy what they do with those tools.

I have always tried to get to the very basic use of tool through experimentation some times making up my own way to do it. When I need information about a process or tool I tend to look the tool/process up in a art hardware text book or on wikipedia or in a product tutorial made by the manufacturer of said product and then go from there. Once I have the kernel of basic starting point, I build from there.

BUT this is not to say I am not influenced by other artists. I find satisfaction in Hopper's work, and some of my stuff has been likened to O'Keefe (although I have to say , I don't see that one at ALL in my stuff, although I find it flattering) I also love Bougereau and Cassat, and I would like to think they helped me learn my craft in some way.

However that said , since the time in my teens when I had an art teacher scold me for not "Painting like them" and pick up a brush and paint over my work they way they would paint it, I have been brutal and possessive about making sure my stuff looked like MY STUFF, and not like anyone else's.

The problem comes (and the thought that occurred to me while working on the self portrait) is when people look at your stuff and then ask you for your influences.
Because basically what they are asking is

"What lens should I be looking at this through?"

and if you say

"Uh... Hopper." then they whip out their Hopper-Brain-Filter and go "Oh yah, now I see where you were going." but they are no longer looking at what you were trying to say, they are now looking at it through a filter of what Hopper was trying to say, effectively removing your voice from your art.

There wasn't really a point to this ramble, when I originally jotted it down in my redbubble journal, Just wanted to get down the thought of the brain filter/influence thing, while it was still fresh in my head. But now that I have thought about it for a while, I have thought of this.

Entertainment is so explicit now. Everything has to be self explanatory or no one knows what to do with it. The fact that you need to ask "How am I supposed to react/feel/understand/look at this?", means you've let other things influence a lot of what happens to you in a day.

Something like this

If you need outside advice on how to react, what lens to look at it through, why? Okay here's what I was thinking when I painted it, "Wow that's like the fourth fern I've killed, I am really bad at ferns. What a lovely over cast morning, the window behind it is frosted lovely with foggy glowing light. I like this green. It's kind of sad how bad I am at fern tending, cause they are so beautiful. I also kill a lot of small Ivy plants."

See? What I was thinking was basically this is sad, and beautiful and a little funny in a bittersweet way. So if you come to me and say, what should I think when I look at this, well, I don't know...I know what I was thinking, and it's not abstract at all, so however you feel or whatever it makes you think, then that's what it should make you think.

So I challenge you to go through an entire day doing the following exercise.

Any time you see something new spend about 5 minutes looking at it. Really study it. Listen to your inner voice and edit out anything that seems like outside influence like "Whathisname hated that thing." "Those really annoyed my mother" "My best friend would love this." "I saw that on that ad on TV." "They had one of those on that show.".

Just dump all that stuff out... that's not you; that's those people. If it satisfies you in some way, or disturbs you, try to identify why. Is it the color, the shape, the way it feels in your hand?

If you can train your brain to really "see" and learn to trust your own feelings and input, then you can ween yourself off the lens of influence.

If you like a piece of art because you really like it, because it satisfies you, makes you happy, adds the right touch of gloom  or brightness to your decor, great! Or did you buy something because you were told it was HOT and NOW and COLLECTIBLE by someone who was just after a sale?

If my stuff doesn't speak to you, that's fine. If it does, that's fine too! But don't let anyone tell you what you SHOULD like. Assert your OWN influence, look at things through the lens of your life and experiences, not other peoples'.

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