Follow the Leader

bunkers, photography

“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…


3 responses to “Follow the Leader

  1. I’ve been reading Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Women Who Run With the Wolves and The Dangerous Old Woman) and I love what she says, that our eccentricities are our great gifts. So when we emulate the work of others, we are probably appreciating their “eccentricities” and when we’re trying to follow them, we may vere off into our own eccentricities. HOpefully we learn to appreciate those as well.

  2. Awesome bunkers image… Great leading in, throughout and out… with combined mixture and blend of geometric shapes… All in all, a great “slice of the pie” section study of historical architecture at the bunkers. Great vision, capture and find!

    Your blog post is interesting as usual and makes you think. Following the leader or be the leader… or branch off from original concept and create something new from it.

    I am always amazed when going to Yosemite and seeing the crowds and groups gathering at various locations for “that” shot. I often find myself looking, watching and seeing what others are seeing. And, now with digital, spending time to see some of the digital creations and visions from those that gathered at the location. I am always amazed to see that there typically are no two images alike… Different lenses, equipment, visions, use and applications of the same tools – yet with different results.

    Mathematically, if you have the same input going into the same formula the same result should always come out. Consistency. If you have the same mountain, scenery and everyone facing the same direction… in theory you should have the same… yet its not. The beauty and magic of the creative mind.

    As in the “art” of cooking… even with preparing a spaghetti sauce… If you invited 20 friends and had each one bring their favorite spaghetti sauce, I am sure not one would be the same. If you break down the ingredients, you likely would be able to say they all have tomatoes… yet the preparation, the spice, the ingredients and such, even if they were the same, would likely all still taste different.

    Who created the first wheel? Who discovered light?

    Amazing how many of us take upon the task of reinventing the wheel in so many ways… Making the effort and taking the time to do it on our own. The pleasure of rediscovering and appreciating how it all works and discovering something new… and the ability to call it our own creation… yet in concept, may have already been done before… yet in a different way.

    As for light… Even though constant in many ways, it is ever-changing with everything else changing along with it. How many moments are the same? Have we ever wanted to go back and create something we once saw, captured and try and do it again… maybe the next time with the knowledge of “today” vs. the what was known back then… maybe the weather is better.

    Even though we maybe inspired by others… the likelihood of an exact duplicate (Xerox) copy of the process is hard, if not impossible, to duplicate exactly. As like following a food recipe for the first time, we typically try what is said, follow the exact instructions, taste and see how “our” taste buds like the end result… thereafter, especially in the art of cooking, we typically add our own spices, ingredients and comfort zone to the recipe… and “then” call it our own – yet inspired from – recipe.

    Here’s to creating art, discovering and enjoying the process… Practice makes perfect… Yet is there really perfect? As like infinity, can perfect really be accomplished? As options are endless and likely only limited to our knowledge and creative ability… there will always another way. The beauty, magic and mystery of art… no matter what art you do.

    Great post Bob!

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