*Original* Sin

Interesting what the writer, Stephen King, said in this week’s Parade, that “you learn to write from reading.” Seeing all the arts as parallel I’m reminded of Goldstein’s advise, to look at great works of art and to study nature (he also said to draw continuously).

Many artists have espoused the importance of using nature as instructor and this would seem to be obvious in the fact that everything we see is nature, which contains form and light, which is what the visual is about. Using another’s work as a Drawing After Whistler MTMcClanahanlearning tool is a bit more sticky when we speak about originality—it is so easy to arrive at a concept that we think is ours when in fact it may very closely resemble something we’ve been exposed to. And I think some are more naturally prone to this malady than others. it’s not an intentional affair after all but the result of imbuing our work with things we admire which include the strong influence of great art.

I guess to prevent this sort of thing from happening one would be well advised to gain reference (as well as study) from the real world, as apposed to from other’s work. Simple enough? Not really because it’s impossible to get strong images out of the head, especially the artist’s stupendously visual memory machine, one well oiled with thousands of pictures.

Pure, unadulterated originality, as we all know, is an impossibility.”

So how do I keep from plagiarizing, from mimicking too closely another artist? Notice I added to that last sentence “too closely”. Pure, unadulterated originality, as we all know, is an impossibility. And artist’s, in doing what we do, copy work intentionally, copy styles intentionally; it’s a learning curve. Copying makes you look closely, makes you figure things out–how something was done–it’s a deeper step into the knowledge of a particular piece, into the techniques and reasoning behind it. We learn “from reading”, as it were.

Maybe it comes back to vision—what I want to say in a work–and to my voice, in particular and in general. And possibly it comes back to the work also; how much time I spend working up a piece, how much time I’ve put in, again, specifically and generally.

I love art–visual art–of all kinds. When I look at something it becomes part of me; this is unavoidable for the sensitive soul, for the vulnerable soul–“the very vulnerability that makes you able to be an artist”, Julianna McCarthy.

MT McClanahan

An artist and perpetual thinker, MT McClanahan finds inspiration through connecting ideas across a broad range of topics. He especially enjoys philosophy and how art and life interconnect. He is the founder of TPT and his paintings can be seen at mtmcclanahan.com.

2 Responses

  1. Thank you for this article on “original sin”– that pesky business
    of not taking too much from another artist’s work and calling it your own. I love your sketch “after Whistler”…very nice.

  2. MTMcClanahan says:

    I guess, unless one is using it as a study, a bad place to start a personal piece of art is at the finish of another’s.

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