A guy in one of my favourite forever movies put an ad in the paper trying to put a band together. As soon as each prospective band member showed up at his door, he’d ask, ‘Who are your influences?’
I think only God is capable of creating from absolute scratch, and all of us have influences on our creative processes, many, if not most of which lie outside of the ‘art world’ itself.
So I’m not here to talk about other artists (I already did that in my last post, lol) or movements, but the other things that might go into your ‘blender’, mainly by talking about what goes into mine.
Art is like a blender.
See, I used to teach art a lot back in the day (to kids, mostly), and I always used to tell my students that art is like a blender. You chuck things in, they get processed, and what you pour out is your work~your painting, your sculpture, your creation.
Blenders have different settings~what you put in might be super processed, as in it comes out looking nothing like what it did when it went in, or, maybe just chopped up a bit. You get the idea.
It’s only natural to put what you like into your blender~all your favourite flavours (like I like mangoes and strawberries)~and it can be a lot of fun or fascinating to watch everything swirl around in there. But it’s also good to try putting different things in there, like things you wouldn’t normally put in there, just to shake things up a bit.
As time goes by, you’ll know which combos work best for you, and how much of a thing you might like to put~you know, to suit your taste.
Watch what you put into your blender.
Blenders are food processors, and many people have said that art, or beauty, is food for the soul. You serve what you pour out of your blender~to other people or to yourself (like if you’ve got one of those personal blender type things).
Unless you’re some Madame de Villefort making poor Valentine a smoothie or something (or Kronk mixing drinks for Yzma), people generally wouldn’t want to serve something that makes people sick. And for me, this is why you have to be selective of what you put into your blender. Like you wouldn’t put rotten mangoes or bananas in there. That’s just gross.
What you pour out of your blender, logically depends on what you put in, so if you want to create good work (whatever that means for you), you have to watch what you allow to influence your art making. To curate your inspirations, if you will. You’ll want to have variety, or a good selection of stuff, of good quality (again, whatever that means for you) going in there.
That guy I mentioned at the beginning of this post? Slammed the door in most of the applicants’ faces (it still cracks me up whenever I think of it).
At the very least, you’ll need to know what to do with the many different things you chuck into your blender~like how people wash, peel, slice, dice or prune the brown bits, or get rid of the pits.
See, I was paying attention in class.
It’s true I spent much of Asian Art History class back at art school pestering my seatmates asking them ‘4:30 na ba?’ (‘Is it 4:30 yet?’~cos that was the time class ended ^_^) (I think one of them actually retorted, ‘It’s time to buy a watch’ ^0^**) But there was one thing that made a huge impact on me and has stayed with me ever since.
For all its personal import I confess I can’t remember now whether it was the ancient Chinese or Japanese artists (the latter, I’m fairly sure) who said this, but they said that artists had a responsibility to their audiences. That whatever they painted or produced had to make people better~or at the very least, not worse.
It’s a belief I’ve adopted ever since and I can only hope that my work has reflected that all throughout my practice. I’m not saying everything I paint has to have a moral lesson or something (cos that’s really not my thing), but I hope I haven’t made anything that’s given someone the idea to, oh I don’t know. Commit grand larceny or construct a cosmic death ray or something.
In any case, that’s why I think it’s essential to not put just anything in one’s blender~because we are always putting things into our blenders whether we mean to or not. I think everything, all around us, and within us, influences or informs what we create in some way.
And whether or not you subscribe to the idea I picked up in Asian Art History, I’d like to think most of us, at least, don’t want to serve up ‘bad’ or ‘substandard’ work. I’d like to think most of us want our art to have a positive impact on audiences or at least, most of us want to present or share work that’s the very best we can make it.
So enough metaphors for now.
Having shared my personal ‘blender philosophy’, I thought I’d share a glimpse of the things that have gone into my own blender over the years by showing you my bookshelves, which one might say mirror my blender pretty accurately.
While the specifics might differ from your own preferences, I wonder whether at least some of my loosely classified and randomly listed categories of ‘blender chucks’ align with yours. Like is your art also influenced by…
Here’s another one of those videos I made for that little video group back in art class I mentioned in a previous post where I share a few books from my bookshelves (and mention my ‘blender thing’ ^o^; ) (So obviously that’s not my current row of shelves but, same stuff ^^; )
2. History x Mythology
This is a section of my shelves where you can see a bit of art history (although I meant history in general, like world history, as well as my own country’s) and mythology (there’s a couple of fairy books there).
3. Music x Dance
So here’s yet another one of those videos I made where I talk a bit about how music has influenced my work. What I don’t talk about here is dance~I don’t, myself, actually (although I admit I do like to, you know, move to music (when no one’s looking, lol). But I do enjoy watching others dance, a lot, like ballets, Gene Kelly, stuff like that ^_^
Having mentioned Gene Kelly, I have to say a lot of movies have made it into my blender and probably continue to swirl around in there. This section of my shelves shows a bunch of things that have turned into movies or TV shows~I don’t watch a whole lot of TV now, but I definitely watched my share growing up.
5. Cartoons x Anime
Aaand having mentioned TV, a huuuge chunk of that comprised cartoons~so if you watched the second video I shared up there you probably noticed the junk I had on the wall behind me ^^; So here’s some of that stuff on my shelves~and a link to the pivotal scene of one of the first animes I ever saw when I was about five (no pun intended).
Incidentally, I spent Christmas 2020 rewatching the entire series the way I watch the animes I love to shreds. Admittedly I’ve fallen behind lately, with all the new stuff that’s been coming out in the past few years, and while I’m not saying I’m not open to seeing more new stuff, I think at this point I’ve seen more than enough to last me an art-making lifetime ^_^
6. Comics x Manga
I used to have a lot more comic books than this~I threw a lot out (le gasp) one day back at my parents’ house during a fit of spring cleaning. (I’ve also lost one or two absolute gems to people who didn’t know how to return things 0_o)
I also had an aunt who literally had a closetful of comic books (that the dudes at comic cons couldn’t believe she owned just because she’s a girl, i.e. Yours, not your brother’s / boyfriend’s?!) So I grew up reading a lot of hers, too. But these are the ones I have left on my shelves, now.
7. Video Games
Again from my shelves (I forgot the piranha plant, it’s parked in the other room where I store my smaller works). I admit 90% of my gaming experience was as a spectator of my brothers, cousins and that aunt of mine I mentioned.
I did, however, spend a considerable amount of time playing, myself, at home, the arcade, and at internet cafes (well into my 30’s and my early 40’s). I was, admittedly, never very good at it, but I did have a blast (especially whenever I managed to actually finish something) (which usually cost me a small fortune LOL).
So nowadays apart from this one Nintendo RPG I’m playing (which I shan’t mention cos I know Imma be crucified by purists ^^; ) I’m mostly a retired gamer now / just spectate. I still really enjoy it / miss it, though.
This section of my shelves shows my old diaries from when I was a kid and some shoeboxes full of memories. Things that happen to you have a way of finding their way into the work of a lot of artists and I think I’m one of them.
9. Nature x Environment
Along with books, history, mythology and all that jazz I would have to say nature is one of the biggest influences on my work. The house where I grew up and spent most of my life in (all but about two years, to be precise) had a lot of trees and birds and things and I’ve always loved looking at animals. So I guess it makes sense for that to show in my work.
So here are a few books from my shelves that show that, along with one or two things I picked up from places I’ve been, because here, when I say ‘environment’, I mean places.
10. Dreams x Aspirations
Finally, here’s the section of my shelves where I keep my notebooks~different from diaries, for me~some of them are full and some have yet to be filled. My notebooks and planners are where I plan things (duh) like for shows and, you know. Stuff ^_^ I do a fair amount of dreaming and wishing, which is probably why that’s going to be the theme of my show next year ^_~
It’s your blender, not mine~or theirs.
I’d like to wrap this up by saying it’s so crucial to be true to yourself when you put things into your blender. Like I said when I said it’s only natural to put things you like in there, I think you gotta put what feels natural to you.
Like I know lots of people out there like durian, for instance, and I don’t hate it or anything, it’s just something I wouldn’t put into my smoothie, you know what I mean? Like you shouldn’t feel forced to put something into your blender just cos some might say ‘oh that tastes great’ and ‘it’s all the rage right now’. Chuck it in there because you actually like it or want a taste.
What about you? Like what do you like to put in your blender? Or is there anything you love to add or gets added to your creative mix on a regular basis? I’d love it if you could share a sip of your smoothie with me.