Friday, August 8, 2014

Influences

"You never know how influences come in. ... I'm certainly never conscious of them ... Knowledge of the works of certain others is, of course, important. But that doesn't mean that you should think about it. These things should go into your bloodstream and disappear."

--Andrew Wyeth, in Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: Kuerners and Olsons, Metropolitan Museum of Art

We are influenced by so much. We start out imitating, with the undigested influences sticking out in our early work. And then, somehow, we absorb them. They blend so well that they flavor our work, but the work itself is something new.

I like to read widely, to keep my "influences" diverse. Right now, I'm partway through a memoir and an essay collection; I just finished a collection of editor Ursula Nordstrom's letters; and I've been looking at two art books, one of photography and the other the Wyeth book that I've been quoting.

Libraries are a great source of art and photography books, which can be expensive to purchase new. Now that we can find thousands (millions?) of photos online for free, maybe such books are less necessary. But I still like seeing an organized and themed collection, with some unifying narration, which I find more often in books. The Wyeth book is a favorite of mine because the artist was interviewed at length, and answered at length, about how he developed certain paintings, what the drafts and studies of those paintings looked like, what factors in art and in his own daily life affected the painting, and the stories behind many of the pictures and the people in them. I'm finding that much of what he says about the visual arts applies to writing as well.

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