Who Inspired Me As An Artist

Portion of my work "A Dance Of Flowers", green, white, purple flowers in a mosaic.
Portion of my work "A Dance Of Flowers".

I started making art only in 2018 without intending to become an artist, as I had spent the first 60 years of my life being somewhat indifferent to art. However, once I realized how much I liked making art, I invested a lot of time in making up for my lack of knowledge.

The only artist I paid attention to was Michelangelo in high school. So when I read the novel "The Agony And The Ecstasy," I was fascinated by how many things the artist mastered. He started as a sculptor and was forced to paint a fresco on a ceiling (which he had little experience with), engineered his own scaffolding, and finally designed one of the world's most famous domes. A quote in the novel (clearly fictional) grabbed me: "An artist must leave a body of work," which stayed with me throughout my programming career. Never be satisfied with just doing one thing right, but keep doing more. Now as an artist, I am continuing with that idea.

After that interest, I rarely paid attention to art, I had heard of Van Gogh, Monet, and Picasso, but they didn't register much. It wasn't until the pandemic started that I had a lot more time to spend (I worked at home, and we did not have much to do), so I spent a lot of time studying art history, especially in the modern era, and focusing on the history of abstraction.

That was when I started to see all the art I had missed for six decades.

Van Goph might be relatively common as an inspiration, but he started making art after trying (and failing) at everything else, primarily teaching himself to make art. Most of his life was not a success until right before he took his life, but it was clear to me how much making art meant to him. It was the one thing that motivated him, even when his mental issues got in the way. I know the feeling of needing to make art, to fill that creative desire, as much as possible, even in the (current) absence of "success." While I don't suffer the issues Vincent did, the drive to create is something I can relate to.

I remember finding a website with everything Van Gogh ever produced in order of creation, and I went through the entire list, seeing how he changed over time to develop his signature style. At the time, I didn't know enough to figure out what mine should be, but it was good to see everyone goes through a period of figuring that out.

A couple of years ago, I was able to visit MOMA in New York City and stand in front of Van Gogh's masterpiece, "The Starry Night." What a fantastic experience. I imagined Vincent standing in front of a blank canvas, wondering what he should paint, and coming up with this! Every day I wake up and have no idea what I will create today, yet I generally have something new by the end of the day.

My "style" is something I could not have discovered earlier since the technology did not exist yet, so maybe waiting six decades was good timing.

I looked at most of Monet's art similarly. He was different than Van Gogh in that he mostly stayed true to the style he and the other impressionists had invented, despite the other artists moving on to new techniques. Yet at the end of his life, when he was ready to stop making art, he made his most adventurous work, "Grandes Décorations," which is my favorite of his many works. Even at the end of his life, in failing health, he was able to reach a whole new kind of painting with echoes of the future. I hope to keep pushing my art forwards, assuming I live long enough!

I liked looking at Picasso and Matisse's many transitions and experiments over the years. Each pushed the other and also was never satisfied to do one thing. My art is different every day despite my following the same basic process. I am constantly looking for something new, building new tools, inventing new techniques, and trying to find another direction to visit. I know a lot of artists that find a narrow style that their collectors appreciate and find themselves unable to move beyond it. Hopefully, I can always push my limits and not make the same piece repeatedly.

The final two artists have a more direct inspiration for the type of art I make. When I started to look at Wassily Kandinsky, I saw things I wanted to include in the art I had started making. His focus on lines, shapes, and colors, particularly after World War I, rejected any representative content in his abstract works. My art soon after looking at many of his works began to include a lot of generative art, focusing on lines, shapes, and colors. It is not a direct copy of his style; I just enjoyed the interplay of these elements and his willingness to impose order on his abstractions.

I had not heard of Yayoi Kusama before this time. Since then, I have become a big fan of much of what she has done over her long career. Building abstractions out of simple shapes but in complex ways is exactly what I enjoy most. Her failures and struggles early in her career never stopped her from pushing every boundary she came up against, including being a woman in a male-dominated art scene. Today she is one of the most revered artists in the world, a testament to pushing boundaries and never losing sight of what her art was. Art doesn't have to be about anything at all; it can simply inspire, excite, and uplift people. Like Vincent, she always needs to create and never rests on her laurels.

There are many other pieces and artists that I continue to study, despite making art that would be foreign to many of them (and artists today as well!). I don't want to copy other people's styles, but I want to take away some of what makes their art interesting. I can't define interesting, but I see it every day; when I make something, I look for that undefinable "Interesting"; otherwise, I delete it and start another.

I wish I had been more interested in art earlier in my life, but the art I make now could not have been made before this time. Technology has given me a lot to work with; I need to provide creativity and imagination. My most significant limitation is that I have little ability to draw and no patience to learn, but art is more than drawing. When Matisse could no longer paint, he invented and mastered a new art form—making "paintings" out of cut paper. Sometimes your limitations are just a springboard to something you never considered before. To find that, you have to be willing to learn and change.

Hopefully, I can continue to be inspired by the artists of the past—and the present—and make art that comes from inside and is "interesting." Maybe it will inspire someone else someday.