Saturday, May 8, 2010

Influence

Fishing the River
20 x 20

"I want to paint like you" is a phrase that every instructor hears regularly.  Some bristle at it, sometimes with good cause.  I heard about a painter who walked into one of his galleries and thought that certain paintings were his own.  They turned out to be those of a previous workshop student, a fellow who notoriously - and successfully - mimicked the styles of everyone that he learned from.  And he learned from plenty, from the sounds of it.  His style underwent numerous shifts over time as he took more and more workshops. 
This mimic is, however, the exception.  Usually, when a student says that she wants to paint like me, it means that she likes my aesthetic, the way that I translate the world onto canvas.  It's a necessary and positive thing to say because it means that this person is identifying her own interest and future path.  She has looked at all of the instructors and their work and decided that mine is the path that she wants to be on.
Finding your own aesthetic is crucial to becoming a confident painter.  The time you spend in galleries, on gallery sites and in the library, is vital.  When I first began painting, I worked my way through the history of art, one fat, heavy, library book at a time.  And when I found a painter whose style I loved, I got out books on him or her and tried to discover how they worked - what their technique involved.  Sometimes I'd try to copy one of their works or, at least, their palette or brushwork in a practice painting.  It's a good way to learn how they created the magic that they did.   My favorites are, to this day, Berthe Morisot, Sorolla, and John Singer Sargent.  Of the contemporary artists, I feel like I've found kindred spirits when I look at Russian Impressionist painters like Sergei Bongart
In this age of self-made men and bold individualism, we unrealistically expect painters to have their own unique styles right from the start.  None of us do, however.  We all follow someone else's path before we discover how to make our own.
Apparently, even the mimic is now doing his own work.  He's discovered the piece of the path that is legitimately his.


4 comments:

Dianne said...

So true Ingrid ! I've been witnessing a few copy-cat artists over the past while, selling 'their' work in well-regarded galleries. At first I react with appall, then actually end up feeling sorry for the artist, esp when their style noticeably shifts & mimics, not just one, but several well-known artists over certain periods of time. Guess that's part of growing as an artist, but to sell the work that outright mimics another artist's style is not right, in my view.
Love your painting "Fishing in the River"! Fabulous movement you have caught in the water!

slo74786 said...

Just found this painting doing a google image search and thought I should drop a quick comment. I love the turbulent water coming into the foreground--a really nice painting. You should be proud of it.

slo74786 said...

Just found this painting doing a google image search and thought I would comment. Beautiful turbulent water coming into the foreground. You should be really proud of this.

Ingrid Christensen said...

Thank you! Your comment made me revisit old, but loved work.