My primary reason for NOT looking for artistic inspiration on the internet is to keep my design ideas pure. (I know - this sounds pompous! But it's true.) I want my ideas to be derived solely from my imagination as far as possible. Over time, I have developed my own particular aesthetic, as you can see from my swallow print below.
Flat, bold colours, with relatively little detail, and almost always depicting birds, flowers, animals or another subject from the natural world . I am absolutely rigid about never looking at other people's linocutting work online as I do not want to be influenced by anyone else's approach. This is not because I do not admire other artists work and think that mine is better than others - it is so I can be absolutely sure that I do not either accidentally or intentionally appropriate someone else's ideas. For me one of my rules in developing and taking responsibility for my creativity is that it is 100% derived from my own head
However, what I want to emphasise is that I did not always think this way. When I was starting out as an artist, I researched lots of other linocutting printmakers. As this was in the early 2000s, I tended to use reference books. Even now, I prefer to look at art reference books than images on the internet. I find it easier to digest them visually as I can get right up close, and you are better able to study the technical detail and artist’s technique . Here are some of my books of printmaking artists. I was particularly inspired by the amazing Robert Gillmor. When I started out, I studied pictures of his linocuts in-depth to try to work out how he had achieved a particular effect. Here is my four colour gannet linocut print which I created after studying Gillmor’s prints for a long time, working out how to incorporate his techniques.
I was also a member of the Dundee contemporary arts print studio early on in my artistic development. It was hugely helpful to meet other artists and to see their styles. It was a very important learning process, meeting these artists, discovering new printing techniques, and the visual effects these created. Working alongside other artists helped to clarify the direction I wanted to go in personally - and just as important, to understand what I did not want to pursue. Now that I've grown in confidence as an artist, and honed my distinctive style, I've become very clear that I do not want this to be influenced in any other way, and I strongly want to protect and maintain my integrity as an artist.
The internet is still a vital tool for me as an artist in other ways. The first is I use it to research my subject matter. Recently, I produce a series of linocuts of Canadian geese, inspired by the flocks which pass overhead in winter. I looked at and drew many different photos of Canadian geese from the internet till I felt confident that I knew what they look like from lots of different angles. I then came up with my own design of three Canadian geese. In order that it looked as though the viewer was flying alongside them, the use of perspective was essential to the design to create a sense of height and depth. Linocuts flatten a design, so although the perspective looks quite extreme in the sketches, this is toned down in the linocut design. Creating this design would have been much harder to do without a huge reference pool of photos of Canadian geese available on the internet to become completely familiar with their proportions and the placement of their feathers.
The second way in which I use the internet is to research different printing techniques. Amongst some of the printing techniques which I have researched online, are: printing from a gelli plate, printing collographs, and printing from ferns and other real leaves. Of course, I am being exposed to the work of other artists by doing this - but my intention is always to adapt these techniques to my own visual style.
Where do you go for your artistic inspiration? And how do you work towards creating your own niche as an artist?