November 27, 2006

Influences

Bukusho - Sokuro-Ru 60x42

Last week I had lunch with a long time (30 yrs) artist friend who is as different from me as night and day, yet we are totally in sync when it comes to art. We both started as realist watercolorists and moved on to big canvas abstraction. For twenty years we were separated by several states but loosely kept in touch. We now live in the same city and make a point to meet for lunch or run a few galleries monthly. We share a fondness for all things Asian and our work shows it. In fact, we try not to step on each other's toes in this regard... sometimes hard to do.

This time we went to a new Korean grill and were bowled over by the decor... every detail was a work of art and our heads swiveled. First to catch my eye was a very long horizontal painting that stretched the length of the sushi bar... simply a cluster of bokusho at one end followed by a long, wide brush stroke of ink. As it happens, I have just stretched four long skinny canvases. I won't copy, but I can't imagine not being influenced by that painting.

Our work would never be confused, our styles and techniques are totally different and the paintings show it. There's a healthy competition going on, probably can't be avoided between artists at any level. As we parted, after a good conversation about our respective paths, almost simultaneously we asked if we were borrowing from each other, and instantly agreed that we were not. But the fact that the question came up signifies a degree of discomfort.

We all strive so hard to create original thoughts on paper or canvas, and indeed our efforts are uniquely our own... yet they can often fall into common categories and merge with thousands of other paintings remarkably similar. Landscapes, still lifes, abstracts, you name it... a minute difference in brush technique or color mixing might be all that separates yours from a thousand other paintings of similar subjects. How original is that? Style and decor demand a certain look and artists abandon one palette for a newer, fresher combo as needed. Yes, I want to please... but more than that, I want to explore the limits of my own creative thoughts. And sometimes, those thoughts have to be jumpstarted by something I see, allowed to mingle with older ideas and merge into that which I can't even imagine at this point.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

You tactfully don't point us to this other artists work. I am now very curious.
When I see things that look like my work, I can be bummed out, inspired, or annoyed. It all rests in those "minute differences" you mention.

KJ said...

I mentioned we have many differences, one being that she is not particularly interested in web site maintenance. ArmorKeller.com still has some of her paintings up (I built the site for her back in '01.) Google might show more.

Johnnie Scoutten said...

I like this one and image it is powerful at full size.

Anonymous said...

I love the energy of this piece: the way it moves as if still revealing itself.

This whole business of influence can be a troubling one. One can be torn between a need to be stimulated, and a fear of being too directed. I have found that my foray out to see good work fluctuates, and sometimes I just do not want to look too closely. On the other hand inspiration can come from anywhere.

There have been times when I have felt so inspired by an artist's work, that I have consciously pursued the ideas generated, but on the whole they don't really seem to work until it has all been digested through the mill of my own impulses. Any good work which ensues can still show the influence, but like a reading of an existing poem - said in my voice.

I shouldn't worry about similarities between you and your friend. Even the genius talents of Picasso and Bracque did not worry about it too much.

Johnnie Scoutten said...

I like this one and IMAGINE it is powerful at full size. There - that's better.

KJ said...

Johnnie, sounds good either way... thanks!
Omega, thanks for the Picasso/Braque reference. I know it's silly, but seems to be a nitpicking point for me. I see it all around, I know I'm just as susceptible as most, but it gets in the way of a good time.