influence

31/01/2011

People who come to my shows often compare my work to that of other (much more well-known) painters. This can sometimes be annoying, but in my more generous moments I accept that it helps them as observers to place my work into a familiar context, one that is already assimilated into their cultural landscape. What can be annoying about it is that it keeps them from working very hard.

talk to me

The painters I am most often compared to are Georgia O’Keefe; René Magritte; Frida Kahlo (the fruity bits); occasionally Dali (nose-crinkle); and once, oddly, di Chirico.

All of these are certainly influential painters whose work I have studied and returned to again and again (except Dali, whose mastery I respect but whose later self-referential hubris I find mildly repellent). No artist works in a vacuum—we are all a small moment in the long human history of reinterpreting the world through visual expression. When I say “influence” I don’t mean that artists try to copy the painters they most admire, but rather they possess a shared perception that emerges in their work.

Other painters I would cite as influences include Jan Vermeer and Edward Hopper, masters of light; Raphael; Goya; Caravaggio; and the great Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

self-portrait, Archimboldo

Every artist I know has, in addition, influences particular to their own individual lives: almost every single one can name an art teacher who fanned the spark early and made it burn. Personally I would have to include my mother, who always brought paper home from work for us to draw on; my father, who taught me shadow and light; my sisters, with whom I would play endless games of “I Vote For”*, and a book my parents had called something like The Great Paintings, which we pored over for hours.

The 4 Seasons

Other influences: light coming through a window onto just-picked tomatoes;

ma cuisine ©

a sky full of blundering clouds;

trees set on fire by the sunset;

the rock formations and ancient dolmens of this area;

things I read and study, in particular mythology and anthropology;

outer and inner space.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

*I Vote For was a game we invented where each kid makes a list of things to draw, then all the players draw them in turn. At the end of each drawing we voted for the one we liked best. OK a bit competitive but it did make you strive.

detail, Autumn Sky ©

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13 Responses to “influence”

  1. gigi said

    we were pretty diplomatic about voting for each other fairly, for being preadolescent girls.
    maybe there were a few paperwads and pencils launched across the table at each other at the end of each session, or a dramatic scribbling over someone elses drawing but other than that it was pretty benign. we did play it for many years. big smile.

  2. dart said

    yeah I was thinking about this after I wrote that, and I think the votes were pretty fairly distributed among us. Except when the evil Diane played. She got all the votes (and rightly so, but it used to burn me). :o)

  3. gigi said

    but aside from i vote for, i really appreciate this post. art begets art. influence, inspiration, challenge, and even a desire to feel what it feels like to paint another artist’s stuff, all goes into the mix. but everytime, hopefully, we learn a little more about that light and shadow both on the outside and within.
    i love your blog.

    • dart said

      yes I think I meant to say “inspire” as well as “influence”: certain artists make me want to paint just looking at their work or even pictures of their studio. I have a photo of Bonnard’s studio that never fails to urge me, and I have a great photo of de Kooning surprised in mid-paint that is awesome, I used to have it hanging right beside me all the time (and it will have a place in the new studio). Thanks for the appreciation, I am still struggling with this blog stuff… and how to say and what to say etc. xx

  4. heidi said

    my family played “i vote” too, for years but we never had a name for it

    my sister became the artist and i’m . . . an art appreciator? love it for what it does for me and am always grateful for those that create

    • dart said

      Heisenberg said the observer changes the observed, and I think what artists do is meaningless without intelligent, receptive observers. I was in a show once with a young and gifted ceramic artist, who started crying (really) because “only artists like my work”. We told her that was a good sign, actually… people with trained inner eyes could see what she was doing and appreciate it greatly. Creative work is all about sharing, communicating, it’s creating a bond and a message.

  5. teri said

    ha ha ha!!
    Luckily I saved pages & pages of those drawings!
    Adorable and every picture tells a story about the artist.

    Of course, the ones I remember well, are the drawings the girls and poppa mike made of me! One is me driving my car and waving out the window, while turning a corner on only 2 wheels!

    Freewheelin?

  6. Vox said

    Diplomatic, yes, as long as someone didn’t ask us to draw, say, a prairie dog, ha! (Why do I remember that?) Anyhow, I think it’s good to sit quietly from time to time and list our inspirations for our work as you have done. Among other benefits, it reminds us of who we are, and authenticiy in our work is what makes it go beyond our mere skills + talent, to reach to the soul of the reader/viewer, to the sublime. WONderful post, dart.

  7. Sue said

    You were very lucky, Dart, to grow up in a house with paper, paint pens, crayons and colours. Your story made me think back to my childhood and I don’t recall ever making pictures or experimenting with colour, form and shape….or having the means to do it. Rather sad. It made me wonder if any of the sisters’ ‘I vote for’ pictures were kept by your family. It sounds as if they were. Teri! How wonderful.
    As someone who can’t draw and has never tried to paint (except in a dream last night) I got to thinking who my influences might be. I would want to capture colour and light – the beauty of the early morning in Spring, the sunlight hitting rock and garrigue, the colours of sky and water. Very simple details of moments of life….but oh so difficult. I can only look and marvel.
    Being a teacher though of very small children for many many years I can take a little comfort knowing they were well provided with every kind of mark-making implement and lots of paper and encouragement. At only four and five, they were introduced to artists like Van Gogh and Monet, were encouraged to experiment with pointellism or make simple pastiches of water-lilies and irises. Many only drew a ‘daisy’ shape… but a few began to really ‘look’ at what they saw and tried to express themselves. One afternoon after I had been talking about Van Gogh, a little girl called Catherine, completely spontaneously and with no guidance, copied (with poster paint and incredible insight and accuracy) a self-portrait of Van Gogh(the one in a straw hat). She started with his ear! She was five years old. I wonder who her influences will be in the future…..x

    • dart said

      yes it is always surprising what kids can achieve with a little encouragement and a bit of direction… we all have that artist in us, and art training is mainly eye training, learning how to really look at things in all their boldness as well as their subtlety. Our parents were quite encouraging of this interest… I remember so clearly one xmas getting a very large box of watercolours–just the pan kind, but it opened up a whole world of colour for me: buff! payne’s grey! olive! vermilion! I am still plotting to do art classes at the gallery for kids, I think it’s really needed here and should be lots of fun… me and Chantal, can you imagine… heh. xx

  8. Sue said

    Like that idea! Count me in as hands on help…x

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