Monday, March 10, 2008

Influence and derivation

There's nothing new under the sun.

And yet, we're always looking for, and trying to protect, the unique. This latest 12 x 12 challenge definitely posed a challenge for me in the influence category.

I can see in much of my work the influence of artists I have studied with or who's work inspires me. It's akin to studying from the Masters in my mind. I sleep well at night though, confident that although my inspirations may be obvious, no one would ever mistake my work for that of my teachers'. (And I think/hope I do a good job of giving credit where credit is due.)

What about more subtle influences, and that Murphy's Law of coming up with a solution only to find that someone else found it the day before? For our community theme, I wanted to incorporate houses. My first thought was a close variation on my "Rooted" series, with a circle of houses tied together with ribbons at their sides and roots in the center. By the end of January, I was thinking of a community "woven" together -- either strips of fabric with the houses themselves, or the ground on which I'd later stitch the houses.

Like so may others, I have bought the book "Finding your Own Visual Language" in which one of the exercises is to take a simple shape and cut it up and alter it, playing with it's graphic nature. I will eventually do the exercises in this book, but for now considered using the house as my shape and the results as a stamp for my 12 x 12 piece. But then Brenda and Françoise shared their stamped experiments and I thought, "Oh no, now I'll look like I'm copying if I do this too." A few days later, I decided that I liked the detail I could achieve by tracing house photos onto my cloth, and that this was as good a solution, if not better (for my work) as stamping.





But then Jude posted her fabric weaving. It's no secret that I hang out at Jude's blog and drool over the sumptuousness and whimsy of her work. But really, I have sketches of woven cloth in my diary, drawn a full month before Jude's What If. Of course, I admired her woven Treehouse quilt over a year ago, so the influence probably is her's, just on a more subconscious level. So now what? Do I scrap the woven idea?

I've decided not to, since my concept of a community IS a group woven together by common interest, geography, experience, language, etc...

In the end, I have houses, I have woven cloth, and I have messy edges. Am I copying Françoise, Jude, and Nikki? I see it rather as an amalgamation of influences that may or may not be from these inspirational women (and the books I own, and the classes I've taken, and, and.). To me it feels filtered through my experiences, vision, and hands. There is so much out there everywhere to be seen and experienced that it is impossible NOT to be influenced. Call me out if I'm wrong.

8 comments:

jude said...

you are not wrong.the way i see it, you are always influenced by the world around you, i say all ideas are to be evaluated at the doing. they are yours no matter what has influenced you. i was influenced by potholder weaving. but that was a while ago.(like kindergarten) i love what you are doing here. and glad to see it because i am excited about all its possibilities you have added.

Gerrie said...

I agree with Jude. But, I am also thinking that I do not like the sharing of our work because it inhibits me and makes me try to do something else when the original idea might have been terrific, but I went in another direction. My original idea which I loved, was very similar to what Brenda is doing and so I abandoned it and now I don't know what I am going to do.

Brenda said...

Hmm, Gerrie's comments seem to echo the concern I expressed back on the 17 January post: "I'm not so worried about other's reactions to my quilt as being deterred from pursuing a particular direction because some one else is already going down that path and executing it so well. There's nothing like pangs of inadequacy or fears of being perceived as a copycat to stifle creativity!"

If it's any consolation Gerrie, I am not at all sure about how my little stamped people will quilt up. I have an alternative pieced design percolating in the background but doubt that I will have time to execute both.

Kristin L said...

Brenda, I was thinking about your January comments as I was formulating my post. Knowing that I wasn't the only one with these types of concerns is what made me choose posting this here instead of on my own blog. The dialog was started in January and this seemed like a good opportunity to explore it further.

Françoise said...

I almost decided not to use the house shape because I thought this was something you might do Kristin! Then, I had the idea of the spiral house, and decided it was different and it was ok.
So it seems that we all have the same "problem"...

Deborah said...

I don't think it's a "problem!" I think it's just fascinating. I love to compare artwork that is similar or inspired by the same ideas and see how each piece is different. And they are ALWAYS different. Each of us is quite unique and talented in our own ways. But unique doesn't have to mean completely different and in-no-way comparable to anyone else.

On the other hand, I'm experiencing all the same struggles. Of course, I want to go to the house shape also. I haven't decided if I will or not.

Nikki said...

I would love to actually see similar ideas executed in different ways. I don't think we should avoid doing somethink just because someone else has done something similar. If we are to learn from eachother we can just always be trying to outdo eachother with something new and exciting. I know my competitive nature struggles with that. Maybe for this open sharing challenge we should encourage taking someone else's idea and going with it? Just a thought.

Terry said...

Finally catching up here. I would love to see Gerrie do what she had in mind originally because I think we will be fascinated by the similarities and the differences. It is a bit like a class painting the same still life. All alike and yet no two alike and each has the maker's personality imprinted on it.