The Charm Bracelet Approach

Have you ever seen a charm bracelet? Maybe you had one as a kid, as I did. It had miniature representations of all the various things that interested or represented me & my youthful life. Maybe instead –  you had a set of baseball cards representing all your various baseball heroes. The entities that were present in this collections were likely varied like my charms – inevitably there were good hitters, skillful pitchers, and talented outfielders. I happen to think this collecting concept can be an extremely valuable tool for artists. We all need a big collection of artists that we admire within our fields. If you are a landscape artist, then you would benefit from being able to refer to several dozen landscape artists whose work you respect. Hopefully you would also have specific reasons why you are drawn to them.

So what would make this be important? First, the activity immerses you more deeply into your genre. Second, the research gets you thinking about what you care about, and why. And third, by having many, many creative heroes you will be less likely to “parrot” the work of a single individual whose work you happen to love, love, love.

Think about it. You can be crazy about Matisse’s stylized cutouts, Kollwitz’s exquisitely rendered and compassionate human portrayals, Thiebauld’s use of vibrating complementary colors, Pearlstein’s compositions, Saville’s personal explorations of the female body image, Cadmus’s foreshortening, and so on… By knowing dozens and dozens of these heroes and their work – your work will be enriched from many directions! You will be more likely to form an original voice.

Propped, 1992, Jenny Saville