I have always talked to students about artists that have influenced me over my career.
It’s important to remember that artists never work completely in isolation; we all need that vital bit of inspiration to get our creativity going. This can emerge at any moment, and we can help our cause by being visually aware of the world around us.
I also recommend that we reflect on the creativity of others and spend time looking at contemporary and historical practice. It is clear to see our aesthetic choices whenever we visit galleries. I tend to scan or browse art works from a distance and select the ones that catch my eye. These are the pieces that I then go and explore in greater depth, looking at the surface qualities as well as the visual content.
There isn’t any great mystery to what I find inspirational, as a landscape artist, I often look for subject matter that is similar to the environments I love to explore.
A good example of this is the image “Venice, the Bridge of Sighs” by JMW turner, produced on one of his visits to the Italian city that was a huge influence on his life. Venice is also one of my favourite locations to work, but I think it’s possible to break that down into something simpler. This painting depicts the very famous view of the “Bridge of Sighs” just off the Grand Canal, possibly one of the most famous viewpoints in the world. In visual terms, I just love bridges and classical architecture, and in this case I think the painting works beautifully because of the circular motion of the bridge against the grandeur of the Doge’s Palace. It’s not rocket science to see the visual link in my sketchbook work from Venice; in both drawings it’s the curve of the bridge and the grand architecture that I find so exciting.
I often phrase this as a “visual stepping stone” back to historical practice. In this case I have created a link back to the 18–19th century, and from there we can step back to the 17th century, and the work of Claude Lorraine, a French Romanticist, who was an inspiration to Turner. I am sure you can see the visual connection in this work.