avoid the cliche

It concerns me the way ideas germinate and become part of my thought process without a conscious awareness of how they got there. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish whether an idea is really mine or one I picked up along the way from something I read or saw on TV.  I also worry about imagery that has a kind of universal appeal and has become comfortable or familiar in content. Much information comes at me through the media and what I absorb has a way, I hate to admit, of finding its way into my art. Even though I consider myself an independent thinker, I’m just as impressionable as the next person.

So as an artist, I’m always on guard about using overstated and overused imagery in my work. One thing I know for sure, art that mimics trends has an ordinary sense about it. It has a predictability and is more easily accepted, but doesn’t distinguish itself. What makes it familiar is what sells it.

Years ago I painted large cityscapes and had a great deal of success with them. The problem for me was as skilled a painter as I had become, there was always someone else who could do the same thing better. My work didn’t have a uniqueness that made it stand out. It had become this stereotypical imagery that felt more like illustration.

I see this now in hindsight, and there’s a lesson in it for me. I admire artists who have found their own vocabulary in their work and still continue to develop independently of trends. As I see it, the trick is to stay aware of what’s out there, but stay true to your own vision. This means staying clear of anything that feels too familiar or easy. If my work doesn’t surprise me, it’s not going to surprise anyone else either.