Even Better Than the Real Thing? The Prickliness of Influences

First, this painting is now finished. I enjoyed documenting it from start to finish. It's called "Grain Elevator and Blue Sky." It is 12"X12".

In one of my earlier posts I mentioned my intent on writing about my influences as a painter. I am a fan of many, many artists -- some well-known (Edward Hopper), some less well-known (Jean Jack). If you ever see me and my paintings in person, I am often quick to point out my influences and how much I adore their work. In fact, I get so excited about the works of my favorite artists that I will, when possible, contact them via email and tell them how much I enjoy their work. I'll even send them a picture of a painting I have done that illustrates their influence on my artwork.

It is a tremendous thrill to get a response. Kristiana Parn (http://kristianaparn.com), whose work influences my bird paintings, gushed her appreciation at my email. Jean Jack, whose breath-taking landscapes I am heavily influenced by, twice responded with 'thanks,' and also told me where I could see one of her original paintings in Cary, NC. William Steiger, whose work directed me to a more minimalist technique, has never responded.

I used to link to Jean Jack's website of her artwork. I frequently visited her site for inspiration, and to see what new works she had completed. She is a very productive painter. I might visit her site every two weeks and find one or two new paintings each time.

I used to. I can't anymore. Whereas some artists are thrilled to be influential and to have inspired, some are not. Although she twice responded to my emails of praise, she obviously paid no attention to the picture I sent of a painting I did that was based on her style. Somewhere along the line, though, she saw one.

"Stay off my website and stop stealing my work," read the Google+ comment from Jean Jack.

I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. I've done nothing but praise her work and style in my blog. I have gone on and on about how her paintings make me feel. It was surreal to get this email, but it was also a little annoying. Who is she to say who is 'stealing' a style. She lists Edward Hopper as one of her influences, and the similarities are obvious. Why is that not stealing?

I responded to her, "All good artists borrow. All great artists steal." (Picasso) I also said that I link to her website from my blog because I want people to see just how amazing her paintings are. I added that my work doesn't even compare with her wonderful paintings.

She was not won over by this. "All good and great artists are inspired from within themselves. You are nothing more than a stalker. Stalker's go to jail."

I didn't like where this was going and I wasn't interested in getting into a flamewar with an artist whose work I admired. I responded to her one more time:

"I most certainly am not a 'stalker.' If you have an issue with someone regularly visiting your website, then maybe you don't fully understand how the Internet works. However, I will refrain from ever returning to your site and have removed the link to your site from my blog."

She responded with a simple "Thank you."

There are many ways she could have handled this, but she chose a somewhat heavy-handed approach, I think. Maybe she has more fans than she knows what to do with. Her paintings run $4,000 to $9,000 (and they sell). Mine run $45 to $500. I don't think I'm much of a threat.

One thing's for certain: she did see my paintings.


Michael Ward said...

Dale, thank you for your comment on my blog. It is most appreciated. I love your minimalist works. Reminds me strongly not of Edward Hopper, but Charles Sheeler, who is one of my key influences. Your run-in with Ms. Jack is amusing, as is her naivety about her influences. I think your stuff might even be better than hers. Paint on.

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