8 Artists Who Have Influenced, Inspired and Motivated Me Over the Years
You may have already read about some of my influences on the About page of my website, so, I thought it would be a good opportunity to provide you a little more in depth detail.
All creative people are inspired by something outside themselves. That’s a fact. As artists, we tend to build on what has come before us, and there are exceedingly few creative geniuses out there who are able to come up with something entirely new.
Every artist has a group of other artists who they use for inspiration, motivation and who serve to influence their works. In my case there are a few people I credit with setting me down the path towards being an artist.
Whilst I was at Luton Sixth Form College, I was introduced and inspired by various art movements and in particular the Bauhaus art movement. The Bauhaus was a German art school that combined fine art with crafts, and to this day continues to influence the curriculum’s of many Pre-University art courses around the world.
I think it’s worth saying at this point, that you don’t have to go to University to be good at Art. However, I do believe you must practice, practice, practice and learn from others, whatever the discipline is.
Besides the Bauhaus, some of my biggest influences include an eclectic range of people such as: Salvdor Dalí, Raymond Loewy, Tony Hart, John Hegley, Don Van Vilet, Ed Roth, Spike Milligan, and Grayson Perry.
Some of these are artists and craftsmen others are comedians, writers, illustrators, and even hot rod masters. The common thread which holds them together is that all of these people are deeply creative artists, who weren’t afraid to live life on their terms. I want to talk a little about these people and introduce you to how they have influenced my life and work.
1. Salvador Dalí
The legendary Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dalí has taught me more than any other artist on this list. What I learnt from him is that it’s okay to mix things up and be a little strange. There’s nothing wrong with being a bit odd in your art. Just because you’re an artist doesn’t mean you have to be, ”Normal” and reproduce life like images or paintings. The scope of what can be considered art is far deeper and more profound than that. You can read some more about the surrealists approach in this post. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Salvador and his eccentric style, that reminds me, I must visit Figueres one day.
2. Raymond Loewy
Raymond Loewy was a French industrial designer known for creating the iconic Coca-Cola bottle. Yes, the world-famous contour bottle was designed by this man. He was also the person behind dozens of iconic logos which most people will immediately be able to recognise. These include Lucky Strike, Hoover, Shell, BP and the Spar Christmas tree logo.
His design work also included cars, planes and trains. He was the Creative Director behind a team responsible the Studebaker Avanti, an iconic car of the 1960s designed in 40 days! His studio also designed fridges, harvesters and even tractors. He worked for NASA on improving the ergonomics, comfort and well-being of the crews for space flight. The famous Concorde Aircraft operated by Air France even had Lowery design cutlery onboard. In the past I was a graphic designer who worked on logos, stationary, packaging and more. During this period, I always thought of Loewy’s genius, and this inspired me to push myself harder with every job, and learn as much as I could.
3. Tony Hart
Tony Hart was an English artist and television personality, who is best known for his work in children’s television. He has a number of achievements in this field. These include designing the iconic Blue Peter badge and also the ship logo, used by the famous long-running BBC show. Tony Hart also presented the children’s art shows Take Hart and Hartbeat, not forgetting Peter Lord and Nick Cook – ‘Morph & Chas’. Growing up I used to watch these programs religiously, and to be honest, Tony Hart’s influence in my life is more than likely the reason why I became so interested in art. I’m sure there are many other artists out there who can say the same thing!
4. Spike Milligan
I’m sure that anyone who reads this will know who Spike Milligan is. Born in India, and of English and Irish heritage, Spike led a very interesting life and most people know him in his capacity as a comedian, actor and author. But aside from his work on the Goon Show, he was also a very talented artist. Spike drew satirical cartoons which appeared in magazines like Private Eye, and was also an occasional painter. His quirky style and sense of humour have influenced my own work, and I still look to him for guidance all these years later.
Even in death, he reminds us of his humour as his headstone has a part Irish inscription of; ‘Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite’, which translates into English as, ‘I told you I was ill’.
5. John Hegley
John Hegley is an English performance poet, comedian, musician and songwriter who influenced much of what I do. Not so much in the artistic sense, but more in the sense of how he approaches life and views the world. His comic poetry and style of performing taught me that having a sense of humour is more important than anything, and that life is always far better when you don’t take it too seriously. I’ve always been a fan of his unconventional style of performance and try to incorporate this type of philosophy into everything that I do. Those familiar with the ‘rhyme scheme’ of John Cooper Clark will appreciate his works.
6. Don Van Vilet
Better known as Captain Beefheart, Don Van Vliet was an American singer, musician and visual artist. Although he is most famous for his music, Von Vliet also had considerable talent as an artist and sculptor, and was even labelled as an artistic prodigy in his childhood. Many of his artworks were used as the covers for his albums. His work is reminiscent of the Abstract Expressionist master Franz Kline. Although he was dismissed as an artist during his lifetime, his art has gained critical acclaim over the years, and his pieces continue to be widely sought after. Check out ‘Trout Mask Replica’ and his vocals on Frank Zappa’s ‘Willie the Pimp‘.
7. Ed Roth
I have always loved kustom cars and bikes, and you can see my VW that I built at the top of this article. I attended many NSRA shows growing up in England, and remember walking around the chopped Ford Pops with Rover V8’s, Jaguar IRS and airbrushed Vans of the early 1980s. This eventually led me to start building my own plastic scale model kits and discovering some famous American ‘CustomiZers’.
Ed “Big Daddy” Roth was an artist and illustrator from California who is one of the most influential figures in Hot Rod and Kustom Kulture. His almost Dalí-esque in his approach to Kustom car designs and building techniques is legendary. Ed was an expert in the use of plaster of Paris used for creating moulding plugs/bucks for his sculptural fibreglass vehicles. He is also known for his iconic drawings and illustrations and also for his custom spray and airbrush painting work on t-shirts, bikes ‘n trikes and cars. He also created the famous hot rod character Rat Fink.
To this day his legacy lives on. T-Shirts adorned with his images are worn all over the world. Roth’s influence; along with many other equally important individuals from the period, such as, George Barris, Kenny Howard (Von Dutch), Dean Jeffries, continue to be some of many ‘go to’ reference points for new projects and builds.
8. Grayson Perry
Known for his flamboyant style and willingness to break societal conventions, Grayson Perry is also one of the most successful artists working in Britain today. Even though I studied Ceramics at University, during the early 1990s, and pre internet days, I only became aware of Grayson’s work towards the end of my course.
I love looking at Grayson’s classic earthenware ‘Grecian-like’ urns, and consider him an inspiration and influence on my work. If you’ve never seen his ceramics or tapestries, do yourself a favour and look them up, his work is absolutely incredible. I enjoy listening to his observations and musings, he also did a fantastic TV show, first broadcast in 2020, called ‘Grayson’s Art Club’.
So To Conclude…
I hope this blog, at the very least, has provided you with an overview of some of my influences on both myself and my work. I honestly urge you to discover and learn more about some of these creative people, particularly if you have never heard of them before.
Finally, don’t forget when you either look at or decide to purchase an artwork, you are also acquiring the subconscious influence of others, mixed in with the unconscious of the artist themselves.
As you can see, here at Ren Creative Works I specialise in artwork that derives ideas, style, and taste from a broad and diverse range of sources. If you are interested in what I’ve said in this article contact me today to learn what I can do for you.
Post Illustration: 1973 VW GT Beetle ‘OPG155L’, by Adrian Reynolds (circa 1999).