Friday, September 24, 2010

To be inspired & to inspire ...

I've been blown away by the work of Chris Berens (visit his site).  I don't even know where to begin.  He draws his own inspiration (light quality) from Vermeer and Rembrandt ... but the average eye would never see the correlation at first.  His work is very much his own.  I consider myself very creative, but his process is so unique and so tedious that when I first read about it, all I could do was ask myself, "HOW DID HE EVEN CONCEIVE THIS TECHNIQUE?!"

Essentially, he paints with the hand of a master.  His subject matter is all manner of beasts, Madonnas and children.  The resulting images feel both surreal and photographic.  You'd swear that they'd been created on computer, in photoshop or digitally manipulated.  They have not.  The paintings are astounding.

He uses inkjet paper (very thin plastic basically) and paints on it with oils and ink.  Due to the slower drying time, he can proceed to manipulate these mediums for several days.  Once the images are done, he then cuts out the pieces he likes.  He peels the paper off the back of the inkjet sheets leaving just the thin layer of painted plastic.  Taking these pieces he collages them onto a board.  He is able to layer the pieces in a way that achieves unbelievable depth and which creates dimension.  The collage winds up feeling like one solid piece, but when you look closely and see all the separate and layered parts you are left astounded by how he's managed to achieve such a lush and cohesive image.  They are haunting and beautiful ... and something completely unique to Berens.

I love artists like Berens because they remind me that drawing inspiration from other artists does not require becoming a pale and lesser version of said artists.  With talent and skill, you can borrow major concepts or techniques, but still create something so vastly different and of it's own ilk that no one even thinks to draw an immediate parallel.

When I still lived in Nashville, other artist friends of mine and I would roll our eyes when bands would constantly answer, "Our sound is like Coldplay meets U2."  It was annoying because at 21 I didn't understand why everything had to be compared ... and I heard those comparisons as saying, "We are emulating Coldplay and U2."  And some bands were just emulating.  But as I get older I finally appreciate the concept that the most skilled artists (musicans, painters, writers, etc) are able to take elements from other artists they love and marry them into their own work without being too overt.  Comparison is no longer insulting ... if anything, it can be validating.

All good art should inspire more art.  We should be happy to give credit to what inspires us ... and in turn be proud when told we have inspired.

Every now and then inspiration can cross genres of art ... which is always impressive.  Music has definitely influenced my own paintings from time to time ... my time in Nashville surrounded by musician friends gave such strength to the stories I was painting.  But it's rather rare to blatantly see inspiration when paintings or sculptures influence other art forms.  I've long been a fan of Scott Radke (visit his site)... and this dance troupe (children) performed a piece inspired by his beautifully strange sculptures.  I love it!  View the video here ...


  1. I feel as if you crawled into my head, pulled out my brain and smashed it onto your keyboard. As for a commentary less gruesome... I'm sorry, I don't have one. Bravo Summer.

  2. If you ever get less gruesome I'll be mad at you! It will mean you won't like my morbid rants. :)