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Why all artists’ suck!

Updated: Apr 26

Yes myself included. Of course, I don’t mean that we are miscreants or that we reside in the lower tiers of societal wholesomeness or that by the necessity for solitude, isolation and introversion there is evidence of an antisocial personality disorder.


No, not at all, although I have met one or tw… (actually, I’d best not)


What I am alluding to is the unconscious absorption of influence. Like a sponge placed on the surface of water, it doesn’t become the water but by the subtle action of osmosis, some of the water is ‘sucked’ in. The sponge becomes heavier because of its content yet it remains afloat. Externally it remains the same piece of bathroom ‘Porifera’ but internally it is changed.



In artistic form, osmosis can be considered the process of unconscious absorption and assimilation of ideas and knowledge. From childhood, we observe art, we draw from it (no pun intended), we are introduced to myriad movements, materials, and to those labelled genius.


When my wife first said “There’s no such thing as original thought” I positively bristled. The temerity of the woman! Surely all of my work is original in conception and execution? Yes of course it is, but as Isaac Newton famously said in 1675 “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”. All artists copy, suck, steal, borrow, think and feel from the endeavours of previous artists, who have in turn copied, sucked, stole, and borrowed from previous artists, who in turn… you get the idea.


No matter who, every single one of today’s polestars of modern art are subconscious (or conscious) ‘unidirectional fragmented art borrowers’. That is to say, that each artist borrows from another or the past without attempting to return it to its original source, but ultimately returns something by way of contribution to the collective world of art. It is a perpetual one way street.


It matters not who we ar, or by what medium we employ, like a culture of egotistical babies we have all suckled from the breast of artistic Mother milk.


Ultimately does any of this really matter? Not at all.


Within my field of influence and obsession for Impressionism, an argument has long ensued about whether British artist JWM Turner was the true ‘Father’ of Impressionism, and that Monet’s infamous work of 1872 was only possible because of he attended a Turner exhibition whilst exiled in London from 1870-71.


Yes, the two paintings I attach are strikingly similar, yet Monet probably never saw this tiny watercolour by Turner. From my investigation I cannot find that it was included as part of any public exhibition at the time. Indeed Turner did not even consider it worthy of signing. Is that telling?


Above; The Scarlet Sunset by JWM Turner. Painted in 1830 - 1840

Above: Impression - Sunrise by Claude Monet. Painted in 1872


Personally I don’t ‘feel’ JWM Turner’s paintings. I try to find 'connection' but they simply don’t communicate very much to me. This is where personality and personal aesthetic sensibilities orient our creative compasses and affections. I do find Turner interesting but largely uninspiring and dare I say it, pedestrian (don’t fret; I have books stuffed down my pants ready for a spanking).


The glowing works of Monet, Pissarro and Sisley with their employment of the ‘Solar palette’ (blog article to follow) and the genius of Lavery, Manet, Morisot, Sargent, Degas and Cassatt have bequeathed a legacy of paintings that continues to make my heart flutter.


It is well documented that each of these historic greats was dynamically influenced by one another; after all some of them painted together, and by their teachers and their teacher’s teachers before them. The painters Corot, Courbet, Jongkind, Daubigny, and Boudin are all referenced as major influences.


In fact Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot was Eugène Boudin’s art teacher who subsequently became Monet’s teacher together with Berthe Morisot and Camille Pissarro. Morisot would refer to Corot as “Papa” and his particular silver, blue - green palette is readily observable in much of her flickering impressionistic work. Monet famously said “There is only one master here, Corot, we are nothing by comparison.”


As I reflect on the words I have written, I have to smile. At the outset I had decreed not to write about impressionism this time around, yet here we are. Home again.


I guess like celestial navigation, we all possess an inner polestar that always returns us to the harbour of our artistic dreams and loves.


To conclude then, if you’re a painter, like me, you suck, and we’re all the better for it. There is the whisper of an echo in all of our works. It's not plagarism, and it's definitely not pastiche, even when we create something overtly or even subtly 'familiar', it is merely the language of art.


So until next time and with an impressionist daub of ultramarine blue I bid you a good day! Lee Tiller

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