Saturday, September 8, 2007

Borrowing, Part 2

Yesterday’s “spot the swipe” challenge brought out some sharp eyes. Emilio, Jamin, Mark, John, and David picked up on the British painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Here’s a typical picture of his called "Expectations" with the classic Roman-style marble plaza by the sea.

Mark and David also noticed the Maxfield Parrish influence. Parrish loved to paint figure groupings in black and white polka-dotted or striped costumes. This painting is called “Florentine Fete.” Come to think of it, another artist known for black and white striped fabric was James Tissot, but his stuff wasn’t front-of-mind at the time.

The next one is a bit more obscure: William Merritt Chase’s “A Friendly Call.” I’ve always loved the pose, because it’s both polite and confrontational. Homage or rip-off? You tell me.

John and Cat were right about the guy pointing upward. That's me, all right. I was thinking of Raphael’s “School of Athens,” shown here in detail. David got that. You remember that painting. It’s the one every philosophy teacher trots out to contrast Plato's idealism with Aristotle's materialism. Aristotle is the empiricist gesturing down to the ground and Plato is the rationalist pointing up to the unseen world. When you read the Chandara book, the allusion will make more sense.

After I finished the painting, I remembered that DaVinci’s “Last Supper” also had the same pointing gesture, and it was painted around the same time as Raphael's, so I suppose it's fair that Meredith, Mark, and David should be given a point on that one, too. So by my tally, David is the winner with four points, and Mark a close second with three.

I don’t know if there are any conclusions to draw about borrowing. A guy coming out of the confessional should stay out of the pulpit. But I would propose for your consideration the following four rules:

1. It’s better policy to borrow from heroes who are long dead.
2. Don’t base anything on one artist; look at three or four.
3. Never assume your swipes will pass unnoticed.
4. Go ahead and look at the other fellow’s art, but at some point, put away the art books, pose your own models, and base your final work on that.

Borrowing, Part 1


Anonymous said...

the old saying goes- 'taking from one man is plagiarism, taking from many is research...

You cannot truly ever have an idea of your own, everything y'do is influenced by your experiences to some extent, and often the most moving or inspirational of those experiences are sharing that spark that someone else did that motivated them to create or invent. There's nothing wrong with taking from others, so long as you acknowledge where your inspiration came from if asked (or in print, with academia)

Since I'm bandying about the quotes, I may as well finish with a classic...

'If have seen so far, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants' (though there is a little controversy over the true meaning of that one, makes quite an interesting read)

Stephen James. said...

Well I have mixed feelings about "swiping" I remember mentioning in an email that I suspected that you were strongly influenced by Tadema. One of my drawing teachers also mentioned it when I showed him Dinotopia.

I personally, as an artist, I don't believe in swiping poses from other artist for my proffesional work. I know it's a long practice as old as art itself. But I prefer to work from imagination. And I think that you're capable of doing that. You have an excellent knowledge of anatomy and plenty of pencil time under your belt.

Being inspired by someone is diffrent than swiping from them.

Michael Damboldt said...

I think it's always interesting when people talk about 'swiping' versus borrowing. It's a completely western idea. I was in an Asian Art History course where the teacher explained that the idea of plagiarism doesn't exist in eastern thought. Art, and function were the same, and it was considered an honor to have someone copy your work exactly. Therefore asian artists would be highly honored if students copied their work or simply re-produced the original ideas with their own twist.

An example of this is that in many of the Chinese silk paintings from any of the dynasties, you might notice all of the writing that surrounds and sometimes covers the paintings. These are from people who bought the works and were so moved or inspired by them that they would write poems about the painting onto the silk itself, thus adding to the work.

Interesting how the ideas change from culture to culture.