I have been thinking a lot lately about my connections to other artists and how various people have influenced my art. One of the things that came to mind was an art history talk about Picasso that I attended some years ago. It was hosted by my friends, Joan and Arnie--my neighbors at that time. The talk was given by one of the professors at UMass Lowell. Sadly I've forgotten her name.
For me one of the most memorable things from the talk was a question from one of the others in the audience. The professor had been talking about various other artists who had influenced Picasso's work. This person asked the professor "How do you know that these artists influenced his work?" There seemed to be an implicit challenge in the question. It seemed to suggest that you couldn't really know whether these other artists had had an influence unless Picasso himself had credited them or you could point to some clear similarities in their work.
At the time, I thought to myself that the person raising the question clearly had no experience creating art within an artistic community. I knew from personal experience that if an artist works in such a milieu, he or she cannot help but be influenced by the other artists. (At the time I was working at Western Avenue Studios--within a community of literally hundreds of other artists.) You'd have to be comatose not to react to your surroundings.
I also know that sometimes it is easy to trace how you've been influenced by other artists or artistic works, but sometimes it can be very difficult. Some influences are very subtle. Sometimes an influence goes through so many changes or iterations that the original spark is hard to identify. That doesn't mean that that first spark wasn't important. Part of the artistic process is always working to make something of your own, not a copy of another's work.
For my next few blog posts I am setting myself the challenge identifying for myself some of the other artists who have influenced my work, giving them credit and trying to tease out some of the ways that they have helped me. I hope you'll stay tuned. Maybe you're on my list.