The Art Of Positive Influences And Support
Prayer flags in German and English, indigo on recycled cotton trousers
Art work by Svenja Seegers and Marianne Slevin, Kilshanny 2010
Sometimes you meet or see another artist’s work that relates so strongly to yours that it could have come from you. It is both a relief to find someone on your path but it can be a bit disconcerting. Sometimes you can find yourself not doing something you would have done because it is too similar to the other artists work, you might have started it before them but they realized their project, you left yours unfinished. Now their’s is hanging in a prestigious gallery. Or you fear that if you look at artist’s work that is similar to your own that it will influence your work too much. My husband brought up an interesting question about it. He said it seems when artists talk about being influenced by deceased artists work it is talked about positively, but when they talk about being influenced by contemporary artists it is seen as a bad thing. This seems quite true for some reason. Some of my biggest influences would have come from my art college friends. Not so much what our work looked like but our philosophies about art formed and grew together in some ways. We were all living in the same city at the same time, not only going to college and studying art together but socializing together, talking for hours about art and life almost every day for several years. It was a wonderful environment for creativity. But at one time or another you have to live again outside of that cosy world so you have plenty of material to work with, it is not just output, but you are refilling that inspiration tank. It is like having all the tools and skills without having experiences in life to take from.
There is something to be taken from this close community of artists that many of us loose when we leave college. Life takes over, many great things happen but for many their contact with other artists is on the sparse side. For me I live with a wonderful muse who has encouraged me to make art for the last almost 7 years, otherwise I would have probably stopped. A couple of months ago I started an Artist’s group that meets up regularly and it reminds me of being back in college, drinking tea and coffee and talking passionately about what art we are going to make. It is an organic type of group, growing and changing. It started out being about artists making art work including poetry and text in the public spaces that seem neglected both urban and in the landscape. This is still the main focus of the group but having a supportive network of other artists is a wonderful thing. One of the other benefits of working in a group is when you are working in a public space on your own can seem like a daunting and sometimes embarrassing challenge, but when there are a few of you doing it it feels a lot safer and less embarrassing.
We have all come from different art backgrounds and work in different ways, but even though we have just started there is already a sense of harmony between the group and huge potential for growth. We are open to sharing ideas and collaborating to make projects that bigger and more far reaching then any one of us could do alone. We wish to continue our own solo practices while having the opportunity to work with other creative people when we wish to. It is definitely a time to join forces and encouraging creativity in others rather then competing with each other and owning ideas.
A wise lecturer in College many years ago, called Mick Wilson told us some truths about contemporary art practice. He said we better think creatively about the whole of our art practice not just the actual art we make, but that we can’t relay on selling our art alone to make a living, but we need to be creative and inventive about the way we are artists too. He asked us all what we planned to do when we left college. I remember having some very naive plan to have a studio in some castle grounds where the visitors would come in and see and buy my art work. We may not get our studio in the castle but on a realer level we can help ourselves by creating a network of like-minded individuals and getting our art out without waiting to be invited or at least as well as being invited to exhibit in our chosen galleries.