It’s said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. In the field of creativity, sometimes imitation can get in the way of personal growth and authenticity.
Have you ever looked at another artist’s work and thought “Wow! That’s amazing. I want my work to look like that.” And then set out to try and incorporate that artist’s style and technique into your own work? When we were young we might have done this. But as we grow as an artist it can become a hindrance to the development of your own style and technique. I used to do this a lot in my early years of drawing. Back then I had a number of artists whose work I admired and tried to get my own work to imitate theirs, which can be a good way to practice and learn specific techniques. But the thing about imitating someone else’s work is that if you get into the habit of imitating, it’s easy to slip into becoming really good at just copying without ever really developing a style that’s all your own. It can also have the off handed effect of causing you to compare and devalue your own work. You may find yourself so focused on trying to get your art to look similar to another artist that you completely miss how your own style maybe unfolding or worse, you may get discouraged and feel that your art is no good if you’re not able to adequately replicate the other artist’s style.
There’s nothing wrong with admiring someone else’s work and being inspired to improve upon your own. But as an artist one has to be careful not to fall into the trap of striving to imitate the styles of others that you end up squelching the seeds of uniqueness in your own development
Sometimes you start a drawing and get back to it later and sometimes they just get shelved indefinitely. I try to make it a point to finish things that I start even if I’m not feeling how it’s turning out. That isn’t the case with this peacock piece. I actually like how this is turning out but I started it back in 2017 and ended up shelving it for some time now and the guilt is starting to get me. It feels like a child I’ve been failing to make time for. So before starting anything new I should probably take care of this unfinished business or it might start haunting me in my dreams…nothing is worse than having your work haunt you in your sleep. 😕
I keep a list of art ideas for those moments where I’m not inspired by anything new to create. This design for my next lino carving is from that list. It’s called a Chiwara, an antelope figure of the Bambara people of Mali, that represents the spirit that taught humans the fundamentals of agriculture. There’s two different styles of the Chiwara, one is of a male antelope featuring curved horns and the other is of a female antelope featuring straight horns with a baby antelope. The one I’ve drawn here is female with a few personal stylized additions that are similar to the male version. The Chiwara is one of the handful of designs I’ve always wanted to get a tattoo of but have been far too much of a chicken to go through with it. Maybe one day I’ll get brave and get that tattoo. For now though, I’ll just enjoy making a carving out of it. 😌
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