Derivative or imitation

Recently, I read a post by another artist discussing whether it was OK for art to be derivative.  He also mentioned the “sin” of imitation.  This surprised me a little, for I thought that the topic of derivative art had been put to rest some time ago. 


So, maybe it hasn’t.  Therefor, here’s my opinion:  Everything we do is based on or derived from what has been done previously by others.  We are always influenced by the work of others, even when we try not to be.  Sometimes the influence is so painfully apparent that we call it imitation.  Not that imitation is bad in itself:  It can be a great learning tool and even produce some good work.  In the art world there are times when it is difficult to see just what the influences are but they are there nonetheless. 


We artists want to develop a personal style which identifies a work of art as ours.  One can easily identify Monet as the painter of most of his work.  Yet it is, I think impossible to escape the influence of and some similarities to the work of other artists.  I spend a great deal of time studying work in books, galleries, and artists websites (Bless the internet and it’s ability to support our on-line galleries) looking at technique, composition, color usage, brush strokes, and anything else that I can learn from.  Yet, my paintings seem to still turn out Gherry Taylor like and not Monet, or Dunphy, or Jordan, or Lenarz, or anyone else.  Some artists and some specific pieces have influenced me more than others. Still when I paint them, all those other works I’ve studied are providing guidance to how I get my idea onto the canvas and so it is derived from all those others. 


I hope other artists look at my work and like me gain something usable.


Speaking of my work, 2421 Barn Beneath Mount Shasta is very close to being finished.  There are highlights and some technical details to be worked out but here it is as of this evening.  Look for it soon on my web site.  If you decide to acquire it for your collection, I will try to Fedex it to you by Christmas.




Detail of the lower foreground


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