Early Influences

TNG-esque Chalice from my Senior Year
TNG-esque Chalice from my Senior Year

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to NPR and there was a man speaking about jazz. Normally this would cause me to just tune out, but one thing he said struck me. If you look at an artist’s early work, you can better see his influences. (I totally paraphrased that.)

This got me thinking, is this true for all artists? It’s true that as an artist gains mastery and develops her own style that it becomes more truly just their work. You don’t see the bits and pieces that were derived from others. That’s the whole point of finding your own style. But can you actually see who they drew inspiration from in their early pieces?

Star Trek Communicator Pin
Star Trek Communicator Pin

Sometimes this does happen. While learning you’ll delve deep into a particular technique or try to “copy” another artist to find out how they did something. Even at the beginning though I think that we try to put our own spin on things. I never wanted to make an exact Mary Lee Hu replica (who could, really?) I don’t try to copy David Huang’s bowls. Even when I fell in love with Albert Paley‘s work while I was finishing college, I didn’t want to make his pieces, I wanted to find my own way to make metal look as fluid as he did.

What ends up happening more often seems to be that unknowingly these influences will seep into our designs. In school people kept telling me that my work reminded them of Star Trek. Not your average influence, but there was a definite aesthetic on the show. I admit that they were right. I didn’t set out to use shapes reminiscent of the TNG communicator pins or Klingon weaponry, but it snuck into my work regardless.

What do you think? Can you look at early pieces by artists you know and see who they were looking at?