Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal

This is a quote actually evolved from something T.S. Elliot said, even though a lot of people think it was Pablo Picasso. But the truth is, most painters do actually first learn by copying. Literally. Like if you have ever been to a museum and see a person with an easel, copying a famous work, that’s a student. I saw it all the time at the Art Institute in Chicago, I even did it myself a couple of times.

The idea is to learn the style and technique of the artist by replicating their work. Similar things are done in writing and drama. First you copy, then you develop your own style.

Unfortunately, this is now fucking me up…

Now, that I have been diagnosed as Autistic and recognize that much of my life was a mask that I put on for survival, I have no real idea what my style is when it comes to painting. (I talked about this a little in my recent post, Bad Pancake Painting.)

But as I continue my most recent painting, the bad pancake one, where I purposefully emulated Van Gogh, for a tribute to Hannah Gadsby… I realized that Van Gogh’s style is definitely not my own. Beautiful, yes, absolutely. But it’s not mine…

I’ve already made big changes to this today. So, still very much a work in progress.

So, part of me thinks that I just need to start over. Look at every painting I ever did and find those blue streaks of recognition. Look at contemporary artists that I love now, and see what makes me feel that frisson of emotion. What speaks to me now. Now that I know what is real, and what isn’t.

It’s fucking me up, but it’s also very exciting…

I think my problem is that I feel like I should already have a style at this point in my artistic life. I feel stunted. Which is a tender regret for me at this moment. So many adult autistics are stunted by the trauma that they experienced, being forced to try and develop the same way as everyone else. That’s why we have immature special interests sometimes. They’re familiar, and consistent. (I don’t know, I don’t want to speak for all autistics everywhere. Maybe they just like Disney and comic books. There’s nothing wrong with that. I know I do.)

BUT, yes, I do think that I am just gonna start over. Which means more painting. And I will look to artists like Erika Seguin, whose beautiful paintings just made me gasp. Or Tricia French, the ethereal power in her mist paintings just stunned me- they remind me of the skin on Madame X. Which was one of my most religious art experiences by the way, seeing Sargent’s Madame X in person. Oh, and Anna Kincaide, who is one of those artists that you want to call foul on because she made the art that was in your head. (I have that problem with writers all the time too. I was writing a version of The Golden Compass when, thank god, I picked up the book on a whim. Let’s just say, I cursed a lot at that beautiful book that I thought was my original idea.)

I just really love when a painting shows a mix of ethereal realism juxtaposed against abstract expressionism. And I love color! Not necessarily bright, but innovative, and unexpected combinations that create their own connections and emotions. It’s about sensitivity and the sensory experience … that you can only get when faced with a painting…

. . . Well, that’s it, isn’t it?

It’s like, I really, really want to put my mind down on canvas. My unique perspective and the emotion I get from sensation.


That should be easy right? Put the beauty of sensory sensitivity as a result of an autistic mind into a two dimensional representation….

Totally easy…

…I better get to work.

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