Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thursday Thoughts...

For masterpieces are not single and solitary births. They are the outcome of many years of thinking by the body of the people so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.

Virginia Woolf (a room of one's own)

I followed an interesting 'conversation' over at Velma's blog Wake Robin through the last week. It was discussing how some folk attempt to trademark their art or particular techniques.   Somebody added this quote from Virginia Wolf and I thought it captured so much of it for me.

Each piece of art I create is built up from my skills, from the lessons I have learned, from the books that I have read, from my explorations that take things a bit further in a different direction; by some images I may have seen or a piece of art I have responded to; by an email exchange that tests an idea or explains another way of doing something; by adapting or using a favourite tool in a new way; from a fleeting moment of inspired creativity; from a conversation with Barry; or...... the list can go on.

In many ways our personal art is the expression of so many inputs.  That is not to say that we are not producing original works - for we are - but to suggest that we have done it all on our own with nothing learned from anybody else or inspired by anything else seems to me to be a bit on the arrogant side.

On the other hand, never do I think its a good idea to directly lift an idea from somebody else's work and think "I'll do that". And I am never sure if I have a rule in my head when judging art about how many steps away from somebody else's work or inspiration makes for a comfortable sense of originality in the work. I expect I will ponder these issues for a long time yet.

Detail of calligraphy - Tatebayashi City Hall, Japan


  1. That's a good point, and one I believe as well. Some people would even go so far as to say that there are no original ideas left in the world, but I don't think that's true. We just haven't thought them up yet. :-)

  2. the trademarking rankles...and puzzles me. beautiful ink in the photo.

  3. Fiona,
    This is a perennial issue isn't it? I struggle with the whole question of originality but don't see how you can make anything without the influences of other artists, books and workshops etc playing a part in your creative process. Surely these experiences inform what we make? It's a fascinating thing to ponder over and it will probably take me forever to come to a conclusion about it! Lesley
    PS Just wanted to say how fabulous your encaustic work is. I'm looking at having a go at this medium and have just bought a dvd from the US which I hope will give me some information to get started with.

  4. Wonderful, thought-provoking post Fiona. I think each one of us is unique and no one can make or duplicate the work that we make...but as you said, neither can we take the credit entirely for ourselves. We are each an amazing crossroad of experiences and could it be otherwise! Lovely to know you Fiona!

  5. FC - it's an interesting idea to explore that one of nothing is original...with billions of folk on the planet there is probably a relatively high probability, but there might just be the odd thing hey!?!

    Velma - I agree - I can't for the life of me understand trademarking some art things! How can one say they 'own' the idea/concept,skill etc when we all learn and follow and develop? Rankle is a fabulous verb by the way!

    Leslie/PM - I like your use of perennial - it does feel like I will struggle,explore, get close to understanding my own position and then it will move ! Perennial indeed. It's fun to explore the encaustic work - I was besotted by much I saw in the US, so had to have a play; and there are lots of methods/approaches. Have fun!

    Patti - That's such a good way of putting it "we are each an amazing crossroad of experiences and influences.." combining with talent and interest and exploration and opportunity. I think I will be exploring this for a while longer yet...Travel safe

  6. F-Have to agree with Patti - what we are and what we create is an accumulation of observations and experiences - the bits and pieces drift in and out and we put the bits and pieces together to create a sort a unique new bit. But that is quite different to seeing what somebiody else is doing and copying it. Drawing from and copying are quite different.B

  7. It is interesting, isn't it. I often feel inspired by other people's work (I have been experimenting with wax on paper for the BAO project so clearly we're all interested in encaustic at the moment!), but hearten myself with the thought that while sometimes I might follow someone else's path quite closely 'just to get the hang of it', as soon as I have an idea what I should be doing I veer off that course and begin to make the process my own...

  8. B - yes, to me copying IS different to expressing the amalgam ideas and influences we bring to bear.

    Rhubarb/Sara - isn't the current encaustic moment funny!?! I think you are right -we often start somewhere, near somebody else, but then take off in our own direction and make the work well and truly our own.


I appreciate your thoughts and comments; thanks for taking the time.