27 January 2011

is your work original?

I'm a big fan of Alyson Stanfield. The woman knows her stuff inside and out and there's no sugar coating on it. I appreciate good clean honesty, especially in the art world.

She posted this question on her blog today: Is there such a thing as originality?

I've found this to be a fairly touchy subject. Almost up there with "What is art?" Now there's a topic that will go in circles for centuries.

But we're not going there. We're scrutinizing originality today.

There isn't much in this world that we don't learn by mimicking someone else. Some things we learn, mostly the mundane ones, we never try to change from the way we were taught. Let's be honest, my mom taught me to brush my teeth up and down and I'm not likely to ever do it different.

But when it comes to art, I think there needs to be some thoughtful consideration when it comes to how much of someone else's style is present in a piece. I've been pretty touchy about my own work, I avoid classes that involve projects. I'm a technique only gal and even at that, I'm insanely selective. I've only taken four classes in my art life, most everything else I've learned has been through torturing my studio with experiment after experiment.

We've all seen the clones of other artist's work who are on the teaching circuit. It happens, its inevitable. And I've got nothing impolite to say to these students. Why? Because I understand the need to want to just make something. Its why I knit. I grab the yarn and the needles and the pattern and just work. I love knitting because I don't design any of the patterns or think up new things. I just go. So I totally understand the appeal.

But think about the flip side of this. What would happen if you took what you learned in that class and turned it upside down and stretched it until it begged for mercy?

That's what I think of when people talk about originality. Its something that I think I owe to myself - the work of finding that place where the process and the work feels like me.

I believe its still out there. But I believe its a process. It begins in a familiar place and then just flings itself in its own direction.

What do you think? Do you think originality is still alive and well?


Lorie McCown said...

It's an old argument, Lynn. Even the masters had influences. Some argue plagerism. Shakespeare, DaVinci, Michaelangelo, Picasso. All. I think what you see when look at their whole body of work is the becoming of their voice. Real art, be it theater, writing, visual etc.. becomes original when it becomes a true voice of the artist (writer, musician etc.). It's the authenticity that shines through. You can smell a fake or a knockoff at a glance. It is that the artist has refined technique or influence to his own vision, personalized it , if you will. Taken the ingredients, the elements of art, and baked a new cake with them. Great question. Love discussing this type of topic.

Michigoose said...

I am getting paranoid about this topic I think. I am afraid to look at other pieces now because I'm afraid they are going to influence me. I am, after all, a visual person, or i wouldn't be doing the work I do. I just posted on my blog about my struggle with doing a piece I wanted to do, but to my mind was sort of similar (same type of background, rust dyed, and same subject matter, butterflies, as someone else.

janice said...

I struggle with this and think that it is one of my excuses for not doing anything, just lots of planning in my head. I am choosing to not read many blogs and look at many websites of artists, particularly quilt and mixed media in the next year so I can find my own style and not feel like I am just copying from someone else. In my head I know that if I just start doing stuff this will happen. Need to get past the you have to do everything right or don't do it voice that lives in my head.

HollyM said...

It is a very touchy subject. Where do you draw the line between what is your own creation and what may have been sparked by someone else? It's impossible to walk around with blinders. We will always see something that sparks an interest. Even just to put a line on paper when we draw-- it comes out in a style that may not be %100 our own. There are all sorts of things that catch my eye. I'm thinking about a wrought iron fence for example, that I was just looking at in my sketchbook. I'd like to incorporate that into my textile art. Someone originally created that design though. Even with a technique (I'm like you, I try to primarily learn those) some of another style may come through.
I try to stay away from too much influence too, but I'm a social person and I can't take too much of the introversion. I need to interact. I enjoy reading blogs in place of buying magazines now.
as you can see, this could be a long discussion.
I've thought of painters and how we can recognize the work of well known artists. They learned the medium but their style is distinct. I think that can happen in textile work as well.

Joy said...

We are each so dynamically unique, that even if we all set out to make the same piece of art, they would be different. We each bring to the table our individuality. And like you said - we learn, then go with it... and we won't end up in the same place.
Yes, my work is original. I am influenced by others, but when I put my pencil to paper there's a style to it that's all my own.
At school my classmates and I can all do the same assignment, but we can identify each artist just by looking at the work. Amazing :o)