“The secret is to follow the advice the masters give you in their works while doing something different from them.”
– Edgar Degas
Another needle to thread as an artist. To what degree do you follow and to what degree lead?
I like to look at the work of others, particularly those much better than me – fortunately a large sampling to draw from! But what to do with what I see?
Sometimes I actually will try to emulate the work pretty closely, though this is more as an exercise, typically to learn a new technique that I can use later.
More often I go through a process of trying to identify those qualities that I admire. If I can extract those in abstract form from the actual work, it’s more likely I’ll be able to use them later in a more personal way rather than be overly influenced by what I’ve seen. Though too abstract and I don’t take away enough. I’m always teetering in between the two, trying to find my balance.
As artists we’re constantly editing, sorting, and evaluating everything we see. We absorb it, let it churn away in our internal incubator and then try to put it to good use in our work. Each step involves decisions about following and leading…