Copying vs being inspired by other people’s art

December 23, 2011

Elizabeth Blackadder Blue Crab Still life

What I initially loved about Elizabeth Blackadder’s oils was the sense of space- the total lack of clutter. And her colours, but most of all how she used realism as a departure point and arrived somewhere new.

Krabbé’s work is dear to my heart because there is so much joy in it. I love his exuberant colours as well as his sense of decorative pattern. But most of all, like Blackadder, he starts out from a realistic departure point and ends up with something entirely his own.

So how does one translate these things into one’s own work?

First of all, I have to have some work in order to even understand where these elements might apply. But even at this early stage of finding my way with oils I’ve learned this important point:

Anything you copy from someone else’s work without having developed and grounded it out of your own experience will be a mere mannerism.

This is to say, that it will be only a superficial visual device. What is wrong with this?

Let me give you an example. My first attempts at integrating what I saw in Blackadder’s work into my own were based on the way she used objects on a table with a lot of space around them. My usual way of working fills up every nook and cranny with elements. What I ended up with were bad Elizabeth Blackadders because none of these decisions were built on a learning experience over years of developing a working discipline.

After lots of false starts, I gained insight into what it was I wanted to take from her work.

It had to do with the sense of commitment underlying it rather than the colours, objects or layout. I wanted to become like that person who had worked hard over the years and finally found her own authentic expression.

That is what I recognized, the yearning and perhaps willingness to make that kind of commitment.

Theme continued the next time I post.

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