My Top 10 Creative Influences
Here’s a list of my top 10 creative influences, artists that have inspired and shaped my own work. Some of these I have always been aware of, some of them were spotted by very observant friends and colleagues. Once pointed out, it’s usually quite obvious those styles and approaches have rubbed off on me along the way!
10. Comic books, Annuals & Cartoons
I would always pick up a comic or Beano annual and become engrossed in the pages and pages of colourful pictures. It was always the images that fascinated me rather than reading the story. The comic book art of describing places and gestures in just a few pen strokes was immersive and exciting. They packed so much action into every page and I could see how it was possible to create detailed scenes with only a single colour and a variation in tone.
This was also a golden time for children’s screen cartoons, with endless re-runs of Looney Toons and Tom & Jerry as well as a glut of 80’s hand drawn classics such as Dangermouse, Around the World with Willy Fog and Sharky & George (to name just a few!). The colour and line of these animations undoubtably left a lasting impression.
9. Roy Lichtenstein
I’m sure that everyone has a pop-art phase! there’s something beautiful in it’s simplicity and speed. I think there is a particular fascination as a teenager, as you’re struggling to improve your creative technique, to turn to the simple bold colours of the comic strip. As with the original pop-artists you can achieve quick artworks with impact. But the best pop-art work brings both sound and movement – not easy to achieve with flat areas of tone and black outlines. Although I hope i’ve moved on from the comic book representations, I still make use of those large flat sections of colour to balance out the more expressive areas of my paintings.
8. Vincent Van Gogh
I could choose plenty of artists from the Impressionist period, but i’d argue that none of them have the intensity of colour and purpose that Van Gogh had with his paintings. His work commands attention and his colour choices are so bold it’s almost jarring, like the orange roof in ‘the Church at Auvers’ that stands out so vividly from that sumptuous blue sky. I also remember a lecturer who worked on a project visiting the locations of Van Gogh’s subjects, comparing the real places with the artist’s painterly description. It was a fascinating glimpse into the space between the experience of the artwork and the experience of the subject.
7. Frank Auerbach
There is an intensity in Auerbach’s London scenes that has always grabbed my attention. He would walk the city early in the morning and then recreate that atmosphere back at the studio. The act of revisiting both the location and the painting (he is known to have scrapped away an entire layer of paint to begin again each day) created works that capture a sense of both time and place. I particularly remember visiting his show at the Royal Academy during my school years, the low lighting and layers of oil paint inches thick resonating with the memories of old London streets. It showed me the importance of personally visiting a location and how much the atmosphere of any scene can change from day to day.
6. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
I’ve had many wonderful school trips to galleries and I was lucky enough to make it to the art capitals of London, Paris and Berlin. The last one introduced me to the paintings of ‘Die Brücke’ (the Bridge), a group of German Expressionists that formed in Dresden in 1905. The colours and freedom of mark-making were striking and purposeful. Kirchner in particular seemed to find an electricity in the colours he chose. The poster for the exhibition ‘Expressionisten’ at the Brücke-Museum(featuring Kirchner’s ‘Marcella’ painting) still hangs in my studio… the one permanent feature in every studio i’ve had. These paintings gave me the confidence to deviate from the natural colour of a scene, allowing it to dictate the atmosphere of the each piece.
5. Peter Doig
Having studied Fine Art at University there should be at least one contemporary artist in my top 10 creative influences! So my choice is going to be the paintings of Peter Doig. There are many qualities in every Peter Doig work that I wish I could easily re-create in my own canvases. He’s another artist that seems to really pick at the atmosphere of a place and the recent Tate exhibition in London has helped to establish his name as one of the leading english painters around today.
There’s often a combination of the natural world with manmade interventions (such as the ‘Concrete Cabin’ viewed through the tree-line). Doig builds his works from snippets of newspaper stories and photos, playing with the idea of memory and folklore. For my own work i’ve tried to find a similar space between the places i’ve visited, the evidence of the photographs i’ve collected and the memory of what it was like to be there.
4. David Hockney
David Hockney is arguably THE leading English painter. He has been a permanent figure throughout my art education. This includes his photographic studies and cubist paintings through to his obsession with the old masters and their camera obscura techniques. But it’s his appetite for capturing immense views that keeps his work so fresh in my mind. The choice of colour and angle of each brush stroke plays with the viewer’s vision and focus. It pulls you around the scene, just as it would if you were to stand upon a hilltop and try to take in the vast landscape in front of you. From his work I try to take colour, scale and a different perspective on a well known landscape.
The pen name of George Remi who most famously wrote and drew the artwork for Tintin. I love these books and the TV adaption wasn’t bad either. Hergé pioneered his own style of drawing, called ‘Ligne Claire‘ (clear line) that gave equal importance to every element on the page. The backgrounds have as much detail as the foreground characters with strong colours throughout. Hergé’s style has gone on to be a major influence on comic book writers and graphic novelists around the world.
Although I count myself as a huge fan, the Tintin artwork wasn’t a conscious inspiration for my own work… but it’s a connection that many people spotted. Over the years it has become a vital link to my earliest image-making and the line work has become an important part of my style.
2. Edward Hopper
Edward Hopper’s work has a stillness that i’ve always loved. The reflective atmosphere of his paintings perfectly captures the feel of New England, something that’s still in the air today if you visit Massachusetts. That quiet side of Americana was a huge influence during my University years, as I travelled to New York and Boston on a number of occasions. The compositions clear out most of the figures that might normally populate a street scene. Instead Hopper focuses more intently on the spaces and architectural shapes of the cityscapes.
A great deal is made of the lone female figure that sometimes appears in his work, but I think this is a device that reflects more on the empty urban spaces around her. He didn’t think of himself as a fine artist either, but more as an illustrator… certainly something I can relate to. I have my own obsessions with architecture and quiet spaces, something i’ve learnt to celebrate over the years through Hopper’s accomplished artwork.
1. Studio Ghibli
Is it a surprise? it might be… my number one creative influence is an animation studio from Japan. I can still recall the wonderful month in which Film 4 ran it’s firstStudio Ghibli season, opening up the studio’s collection of excellent films. I’d already found ‘Spirited Away’ through a friends recommendation but I quickly discovered the joys of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind , Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle.
Studio Ghibli was founded by the artist Hayao Miyazaki, fellow artist Isao Takahata and former tabloid journalist Toshio Suzuki. Up until the suspension of production in 2014 they had made 20 features (Nausicaä being the unofficial first film… so 21 features really). These films combine beautiful matte painting with strong character animation (using clear distinct line work). Pause just one of these titles at any point in the film and you will see the layers of creativity and painterly detail.
They also show an understanding of how modern life can get mixed up with it’s history and traditions. These are reflected in it’s stories that celebrate, in Miyazaki’s words, “What we have forgotten, what we don’t notice, what we are convinced we have lost”.
It remains my ambition to create unique artworks that find a balance between the contemporary and the traditional. I hope it helps other people see things that they might have forgotten about, discover new places or find a new way of looking at the places they know so well.
What do you think?
So that’s my top 10, there are lots more that i’ve discovered along the way but these are the ones that I keep coming back to. Do you agree with my choices? who have I missed out that would be in your top 10 creative influences?