“Who are your influences?” It’s a question often asked by professors to help artists grow, critics to place artist’s work and ideas in context, and audiences to understand artists’ creations. It’s also a question we can ask to do all of these things for ourselves.
It’s one thing to list our artistic influences, it’s another to clarify how we are responding or what they mean to us. Moving beyond questions of what influences us to how and why they influence us deepens our understanding of and our connection to the things we are moved by.
When you have a realization, write it down. Writing not only creates a durable record you can refer to later, it also makes it far more likely that you will remember what you write down. List all of your influences in one place and you’ll see connections between your influences by making comparisons and contrasts –sometimes finding these insights requires asking follow up questions like, “How does the relationships between these things indicate shared qualities and themes within my own work?” and “How can the difference between these things be used to create something new?” Date the times you are influenced and you’ll see how chain reactions of thoughts and feelings start, grow, and change. You can expand your understanding by writing more than lists. Write a simple line stating the essence of what the work means to you. Write a few paragraphs to outline more and reveal connections to other things.
Sometimes an influence, rather than coming another artist’s entire body of work, comes from a single piece, perhaps even an atypical work. Sometimes an influence comes from an artist working in a seemingly unrelated discipline. Sometimes an influence even comes from something we don’t like or resist. Of course, there are many other things that influence us besides other artist’s works and they’re worth tracking too.
Being self-aware is different than being self-conscious. During this process, silence your inner critic. The voice(s) that helps you evaluate ideas or results is not the same voice that sees new possibilities and generates ideas. This critical aspect of ourselves can be very helpful, selecting and refining and strengthening the best ideas drawn from many, but it serves us best after a process of observation and generation, if it is active during those processes, it can stop the flow of thoughts and feelings.
Observing our inner world, our thoughts and feelings, our associations and disassociations, our fixations and aversions, and their interconnections moves rich material from the dark corners of our sub-conscious into the light of the conscious mind. If we do this, we can find more material to work with, we can ask generative questions to help us grow, we can make clearer/better choices, and it’s very likely that we will be more productive and more fulfilled. When awareness is present our artistic process becomes a journey of personal discovery, which is sometimes challenging but always rewarding.
Who are your influences and what do they mean to you?
Find out more about my influences here.
Is there a pattern to the artist’s above? Yes. They’re all influential to me.
Who are your influences? If you’re an artist you hear this question all the time. Many of us resist the temptation to answer as our answers may lead others to a poor choice of words – derivative. The reality is we’re all being influenced all of the time. It’s interesting to separate your enduring influences (the ones that stand the test of time) and your current influences (the most recent). For instance, I just saw the Louise Bourgeoise exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC. It’s influencing me. Will I do something with that influence immediately? Will that influence stay with me long enough to become significant? Time will tell. I also visited my favorite gallery in the Metropolitain Museum in NYC – the Rockefeller wing containing artifacts from primal cultures typically used for sacred or ceremonial functions. I go there every time I visit the museum. Every time I’m thrilled. The influence of this kind of art has been and will be with me my whole life.
I just entered into the arena environmental sculpture. (See video here.) How long has this been building? Since I was one year old. Who was the earliest influence? Calder. Who’s the most recent influence? McCall. Who are the other sculptures who have been influential to me? Find some of them in the Sculpture section of my AStore. You’ll find a clear pattern – and some surprises.
Who are your influences? Comment here!
You can see my new work and hear me talk about it during my Annual Exhibit 8/2-3. Find out more here.
Watch the video in my previous post here on this blog.
Then stay tuned for the online release of the gallery of images the video relates to.
Stay tuned for online releases all weekend long.