Friday, October 4, 2019

The Art of Stealing

This is one of my most popular altered thrift paintings.
The original is an 8x10 on canvas board,
which I found at a thrift shop for a dollar.
In an attempt to do something new while walking on the treadmill, I've started watching more TED talks. I'm focusing first on talks about art and creativity. The other day, I watched one that presented the idea that all artists "steal" from other artists. It sort of latched onto the claim that there are no new ideas, only recycled old ones. I don't necessarily believe there are no new ideas, but I do think we can't help but be influenced by other artists' work, even to the point of incorporating certain aspects. And, as was the real focus of that talk, we are often inspired by others' ideas, and then make our own creative versions. 

As an example, I'll use one of my latest creative endeavors: altered thrift store paintings. The idea is to buy a rather generic painting from a thrift store and add fantastical elements to it. Such as, buying a boring landscape and adding monsters or mythical creatures or aliens. To get a better understanding, just Google images of "altered thrift store paintings" and you'll see dozens upon dozens of them. That's how I got starting--Googling images to see what has already been done. Not to imitate it, though--to transform.

One thing I do is add shadows and highlights
to the original to make sure my additions
blend in. This flower arrangement was rather
"flat" initially. I added depth to the flowers.
The difference between imitating and transforming is the way in which each artist proceeds. Every one has their own style and preferences. Some artists go for cute, some for funny, some for scary. Some put in movie characters (lots of Star Wars out there) or cartoon characters. Others prefer to create their own creatures. For some, the idea is to make the addition stand out both in content and in style. Others (like me) prefer to work the new elements in so that they appear to be part of the original painting.

The point is, I wouldn't be having all this fun, and selling these paintings as fast as I can create them, if I'd been afraid of taking hold of an idea that's already out there. Stealing is part of art, but it's taking those stolen ideas and turning them into something unique that makes it art. Letting your own personal style and voice come through. Not just imitating, but transforming. I still look at other altered thrift paintings to get ideas for how to approach a new painting, but I always end up taking things in a different direction. (Other times, I just stare at the painting until an idea jumps out--like the two examples I have in this blog post. Both originals seemed to tell me what they needed.)

So steal away! Ideas, that is. Inspiration. Then twist what you've stolen into something new and unique.

If you want to keep up with my art, including my altered thrift paintings, follow me on Instagram. I also try to keep up with sharing them on my Facebook author page

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