Practically all great artists accept the influence of others. But... the artist with vision... by integrating what he has learned with his own experiences... molds something distinctly personal. (Romare Bearden)
What is it about being original anyway? Is there such a thing? I am not talking about reproductions compared to the original work. I mean originality in concept and execution of that concept. Something truly unique. Is it necessary in this digital world?
Many artists agonise over this issue. There is an insatiable need for some to stand out and be counted as the new original artist of our time. This can play out as outlandish behaviour or shocking work or some gimmick to snag attention even for a short while. The trouble is that this approach is high maintenance. By its very nature it tends to fizzle out as the energy needed to keep up with the show becomes a distraction. Very few have achieved a balance between show and show-up. Salvador Dali managed it before TV and tabloids. Andy Warhol perhaps? Damien Hirst still provokes, but does anyone care?
Many other artists take the view that there is nothing original anymore. All art is derived from what went on before. Perhaps someone in complete isolation could come up with something truly new. But for practicality where there is teaching and learning there is influence on the student. By its very nature this involves repetition of method if not also ideas. Is this wrong? The idea of stealing like an artist suggests that since no one was paying attention in the first place there is nothing wrong with repeating an idea. Provided the artist brings her own interpretation to the work. Perhaps this is the key.
Modern schools of art try to teach the idea that each artist much have a unique concept. As a result we see some unusual work. Often installations that took tremendous effort. For that alone the artists deserve credit. Does it resonate with a viewer? Perhaps but then that is not the artists problem. The artist must create honestly and express her own truth. Who is to say what is truly original. But I do believe that originality cannot be taught. Copying can be rejected, but originality remains elusive and special.
Must art go in a new direction to be considered truly original? The impressionists were original until they they follwwed and copied until technique stifled originality. Cezanne broke away and developed something different, but had to endure a lifetime of rejection. Perhaps art that is considered ugly at first but accepted later is truly original? This is taking the matter too far as new directions are not necessary for originality.
Personally I can say that the impulse to create something comes from within and will take place no matter what other artists are doing. The opinions of others are also secondary or not even present when the creative drive is at work. It is also an urge to create that gives birth to ideas and concepts not the other way round. Without the impulse to create the ideas do not exist. You need to give the green light to creative ideas for them to start appearing.
The type of art is also not important since there is just as much potential for originality in representational work as there is in conceptual abstract work. It is interpretation and communication through the artist’s efforts that makes art original. That allows all artists the opportunity to create original work.
Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures. (Henry Ward Beecher)