I kind of cringed when I wrote that subject line. I used to think like this. In the past, usually when my art was not going so well, I would look outside of myself for answers. Maybe I hadn’t sold anything or was just feeling kind of unconfident about what I was making. It just somehow seemed that everyone in the world was doing better than me. What ever it is, sometimes when things aren’t going so well here, we look over there, to see what others are making.
And then, if you see art that you love and it appears to be doing all the things that yours is not, such as selling or appearing any number of ways, all better than your own work, it does seem logical that you just might make your work more like that work. In fact, you just might try, when nobody is looking, to copy that work.
And that is a problem. Not so much because, as we all have found out, it is not so fun, but because it is not at all the right path to lead you back to where you belong. Where you should be starting. Where you should be paying attention: your Art.
We need to be inspired. It is essential to look at others work. Especially work that is going where you would like to go someday. But we need to do it with a particular set of questions and goals. Ones that help us get the benefits of looking at others work but also keep us in our own artistic lanes. Remember there is something in this art that is calling you to it. And that is what we are after.
Here are the questions I use when falling in love with someone else’s art.
What specifically are the qualities of the admired art that attract you?
Really go deep with this question. Write down the specific aspects you admire.
Compared to your art… Is it more colorful? More loose? Is it the subject matter or the feeling of the finished work that draws you to it?
Does my art have some of these qualities already?
It might be possible that all you need to do is strengthen these qualities in your own work to improve it. In other words you just need to push your art further.
What would I change about this admired work if I were making it?
In other words what don’t you like about it?
In asking and then answering all three of these questions, you are framing this attraction in terms of your own art.
Let others work help inform you about where you want to go. The whole creative world is self-referential. All of us are influencing one another. The successes of others should inspire you. After all, if it possible for them, it is possible for you too.
Take a dive into what others are making, but do it looking through the lens of your own art. You always need to be driving your own car. Not somebody else’s. There is no room in their car anyway for you. Drive yours. Stay in your lane. Sure, listen to the radio as you go, but don’t try to become it. Just listen and let it inspire you as you go. It is the soundtrack to your movie. Your art. Your life.