I read all the time about artists being influenced by other artists, as if that is how similarities between artists’ works always comes about. This belief may be expressed as a fact, even if it is speculative on the part of the author, by statements such as so and so was obviously influenced by this or that artist. Or it may be implied in the direct question “who are your influences?”
It is true that artists are inspired by others who have tackled the same problems, and that we learn through seeing how they have solved the same dilemmas. I have gone to art museums and galleries, examined paintings to try and understand what pigments the artist has used and how he or she used them. Also to study and even sketch others’ compositions and artworks.
But as well as being directly influenced there is also an artist’s inspiration. It is not spoken or written about a lot as it is such a mysterious and nebulous thing. Where does it come from? What is it? In our material and nonspiritual age it is popular to talk as if all inspiration begins outside of us, we are inspired by what we see and what is around us. Surely that is one source, but it is not the only place that inspiration comes from.
In my experience there is a place, or perhaps a state, in which I go to meet inspiration. And that this inspiration can be impersonal, not necessarily confined to one particular person. It can be like the rain, falling on many at the same time. Is it the collective unconscious that Jung speaks of? Or something that comes from some other realm – which some might call imagination? I don’t know the source, I only know the experience. The experience is a gift that you can open yourself to receive. You can step outside and let the rain soak you. Others can receive it too.
Perhaps some inspiration is bigger than others. Perhaps sometimes it is a rain that covers nations, falling from one edge of the world to another. Perhaps at times it is a shower that passes and lands on only a few.
I do know it is not uncommon to share inspiration with another artist, or many artists, without ever meeting or even seeing the others’ work. Many times I have run across another artist’s work that carries what I had imagined was my own personal inspiration.
I had this happen today following a link to a german surreal artist Moki Mioke. As I looked at her paintings of people entwined by plants, and merging into the nature around them I felt a shock of recognition. That recognition seemed confirmed when I went to her photo stream on flickr and saw dilapidated buildings, falling down sheds, dead birds and young women deep in nature. So similar to the photos that I take.
Have you had a similar experience?