I picked up Steal Like an Artist: 10 things nobody told you about creativity looking for inspiration for todays post and I realized it’s been awhile since we have checked in with this little treasure. Chapter 2, “Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started”, is one of my favorites.
(If you don’t know about Austin Kleon’s book, it is basically Art and Fear light. Art and Fear is another book we have referenced here at StuckinPlastic. Both are great books and should be added to your photography / artist reference library.)
It’s ok to steal from other artists and creative people, successful creatives have been doing it for years. But like all things, there is a right and wrong way to “steal”. Chapter 2 talks a lot about how to steal the right way. When you start your creative journey it can be a struggle to find our own unique voice; this is not unusual and we have all gone through it. One way to find your own “voice” is to find people’s work that you admire and try to copy their work. But when you are copying their work, don’t just copy the image, copy the thought process behind the work.
“If you just mimic the surface of somebody’s work without understanding where they are coming from, your work will never be anything more than a knockoff.” Austin Kleon, Steal Like and Artist
When I first started shooting under water nudes I was taken by the work of Brett Weston. His black and white nudes shot in his swimming pool are stunning and I wanted to emulate the feeling of grace and sensuality that only water can provide. I looked around for other photographers I admire like Sally Mann and Jock Sturges and tried to inject my photos with the emotion they area able to capture in their portraits. It was this mashup that led me on my own journey.
Now fast forward to the world of toy photography and I am still stealing from other artists. This time my influences are @LegoJacker and The War Toys Project (for using toys in a socially relevant way), @Avanaut (for his attention to detail and consummate professionalism) and @Kalexanderson (for her ability to convey universal truths with a simple storm trooper). I have a long way to go to be able to capture the images I have in my head, but I am grateful for these other artists for showing me that there is a way.
I was shocked at the BalticToySafari when David (@suppaduppa666) told me how he emulates @Avanaut’s work and showed me examples of images that he felt were direct copies of Vesa’s work. I was surprised because these works were very much David’s vision, they bore no resemblance to Vesa’s in any way. David had so successfully integrated another persons technique into his own work, he had ultimately made it his own. Now that is a true artist.
If you are beginning on your own creative journey feel free to find other artists you admire and steal ideas from them. But don’t stop at one, look for many, even hundreds of creative people to steal from. The more great input you take in, the more ideas you incorporate into your work, the more original it will seem.
Before you know it, other artists will be looking at your work to steal from.
Who are your influences and why?
Interesting you post on this subject right now. Coincidence is that a few days ago I spent a whole evening looking at two things on my Flickr profile: the pictures I marked as favorite and the list of people I follow. In particular the ones that I marked/followed when I created that account dedicated to toy photography.
Overall it was a wonderful experience. I spent hours looking at very different photos. Some are beautiful and technically perfect. Others may not be that amazing technically but have a storytelling without match up to the point some even makes me laugh out loud for minutes. I realized there are people I have followed their work for far more longer than I thought, realizing how much I’m inspired by them. It felt like a kind of journey where I learned from where I came, where I (try to) go and why.
I must say I am jealous of how you spent your evening. It sounds like an evening well spent! When you were looking at these images could you see how they have effected or influenced your own toy photography?
Yes of course but I also already had an idea who influences me and how. But maybe more interesting I could also decrypt influences of other people (even though I’m not always sure in which direction the influence has to be applied if it’s not both way).
As Picasso said “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
I am pretty sure that quote is in both books. 😀
I am the thief 😀 !!! I remember your face while I was saying that!
The magic weekend keeps providing good memories.
Great Post, Shelly!
Thanks David! It was a magical weekend! Truly!
My face a mask of complete and utter disbelief! Bwahaha!