I have a real desire to attribute credit where credit is due. If someone gives me a book to read, and I find worth in it that I want to pass on, I not only feel like it's appropriate to acknowledge the author of said book, but also of the person who told me about the book in the first place, that is, if I can remember.
- I can remember who told me to read My Name is Asher Lev and where we were standing when it happened.
- I can remember who told me to watch the Leonard Cohen documentary and where I sat crying tears of healing.
- I remember who told me about Dance of the Dissident Daughter and the powerful overnight trip I went on by myself to a Benedictine Nun retreat center after I finished reading it.
- I remember the first artist who called me an artist.
When someone gives me something valuable, I want to be sure they get the accolades. It's a way of saying thanks and a way of publicly recognizing their gift. Though I am competitive I don't believe in hiding who my resources are as a way of protecting my creative genius. If something is from someone else, I want to claim that fair and square as an asset, so all my cards are on the table from the beginning.
When it comes to being an artist, I am a thirsty sponge. Every single day I gather some sort of inspiration from the world around me and tweak it to apply it to my life:
The phone conversation with my dad:
All of these things are, according to Robert Henri, mine for the "taking:" The batman slippers, the Basquiat colours, the words of my dad. But, because I am such an attributor, I can feel the tendency to hold my own creative potential back. Those slippers weren't put there for me. I can't use HIS colours. That's the way my dad teaches; I need to find my own way.
Another perfect example of this is how I think of Brian Andreas whenever I underline words - as if Brian owns the underline, and I need to get permission to borrow it.
I steer myself away from creative freedom out of fear that I am taking something that isn't mine to take, or that I will use it in the wrong way. That in some way my use of the inspiration I collected will be offensive or uneducated and reflect poorly on the source. I feel as though I have so much creative potential and awareness inside me that perhaps I am somehow unfairly cheating by having access to the world around me. Shouldn't there be some gatekeeper of the inspiration? This is the faulty thinking I am in the process of eliminating.
When I read these words by Robert Henri (as shared above) I got a little buzz because I realized I like to use everything. I believe I don't need an art history class to flip through an entire book on Paul Klee and know that this is my favorite painting. I don't need to understand and debate the ins and outs of economics and politics to know that I love Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead.
What if curating art and inspiration was only up to you? Pretend, just like I did with the plants on my property, that no one has ever been called a "Master Artist" and no one has ever determined this is "high" art and this isn't. This is "true" art and this isn't. This is "museum worthy," but this isn't.
Level the playing field in the sense that YOU get to decide what you want to use and what you don't. And if you get the chance, by all means, share the attribution (I want to err on the side of over-doing this), but know that with the internet, more and more we all have access to the same material and there is LOTS of material. The artist game really becomes about HOW you're going to creatively use it in a way that is different from how it has been used before. You get to build onto the legacy. You get to add to it. This is where it becomes invaluable to simply do you.