With so many artists teaching online these days (including me) and so many techniques to learn, it’s inevitable that a student’s work is influenced by an instructor’s.
That’s kinds of the point – if you admire someone’s work, you want to know how it’s done. But the rest of the story is about what happens when you know how it’s done and what you do with the information.
In the last newsletter from the GAGA group of women artists, this question was posed:
I have spent the last two years working hard on my painting style so that I can become as recognized as other artist of note in this community. I have paid a lot of money to teachers for classes and workshops, incorporating their techniques to help me improve and sell my art. Now that I am getting ready to enter a national juried exhibition (with substantial prize money), this pops up in the Prospectus: “Works that have been completed under instruction or in direct association with a class or workshop are not eligible.” So why have I spent so much of my money on these classes and workshops if I can’t use the art techniques from my teachers?
See what you think about the answer:
Most worthwhile juried shows include this phrase to protect both professional artists who teach and students who so admire the work of the instructor that they do their best to copy an instructor’s style and end up looking rather foolish and unoriginal. Good exhibition guidelines discourage direct copying of another artist’s style, which can be like trying to find a lazy shortcut to success without all the work it took the original artist to get organically to that point. It can also be illegal – an artist has the right to prohibit others from making truly derivative works.
Technique is only one part of the equation of being an artist. And a lot of work done under instruction has both the professor’s hand as well as intellectual creative “solve” in it! So, student work is not artist work. It’s a stepping-stone to one’s finally developed voice!! You can and should learn technique, but after that it is your creative vision, internal dialogue, life experience and expression that cannot be duplicated. It is up to everyone to find this for themselves. Technique is not art, lessons are training wheels, copying is not creating, paintings are not recipes and sales are not always the goal.
If you do not yet recognize this and are upset by this very common phrase in a Call for Entries, perhaps you should spend a bit more time on your journey of development. When you learn how to experiment and play in your own way with what you learn, you will develop your own voice. Quit imitating and honor the techniques you learn from your teachers by translating them into your own language. Being slavishly derivative does not become any of us and does not earn us recognition in exhibitions.
“Influence” and “emulation” and “incorporation” are all words we use that describe our use of the signature techniques that other artists share with us. “Copying” has a different connotation altogether.
And you certainly don’t have to be a teacher to experience the realization that another artist is “heavily influenced” by your work. It’s a complicated subject.
Jude Hill is a beloved fiber artist whose blog and practice are followed by thousands of people. She is sensitive, low-key, and very authentic. She addresses this complicated issue in a video – it’s really brilliant. It’s so relaxing to watch her stitch and listen to her soothing voice.
So what do you think? It’s certainly not a black-and-white situation, and there is, as I always say, “more than one right answer.”
To help give you some perspective, read Inspiration vs. Imitation by Christine Nishiyama, illustrator, author, and artist. You’ll enjoy it.