I've been watching past seasons of "Project Runway." How did I not know about this show before? Probably because I'm not a big TV watcher. But, this one...I'm hooked on. I love the challenges...the creativity it takes to make something that stands out from the crowd. Not an easy task.
In one of the finales, I was struck by something the judges said about one of the final three contestants, who did not win the big prize. They had commented that one of the pieces in her collection looked a lot like another, very famous, designer from years past. Needless to say, she was heartbroken...but not just because she wasn't the big winner. She was in tears and humiliated that the judges thought she had copied another designer. I really felt for her. To be accused of something, that is in no way true, is extremely damaging to one's creative spirit and confidence, not to mention very damaging to the reputation. It presses on the soul and stifles creative happiness. From the observer's standpoint, it's an easy thing to get caught up in the piling on of a fellow artist but, a caution: know both sides of the story.
Now, I'm no fashion guru. I have no idea weather or not this gal borrowed from another designer. The real point, for me, was her response to the judges. She told them that she never looks at the work of other designers. Then the judges said something that really stuck with me...they suggested she educate herself about what was going on in the fashion world, past and present. I totally get why they would tell her that...for her own protection.
I've heard artists say things like "I never look at other artist's work because I don't want to be influenced" "I don't look at art books or magazines" "I don't know what other artists are doing" "I'm completely self-taught." But, the truth is, none of us live in a bubble. While we are all born with certain talents, no one is truly and completely self taught. No man is an island. The great majority of us have been taught and/or influenced by someone else. Even if it's as small a thing as looking at photos or books, instruction manuals or....osmosis! As artists, we're all influenced by the things we see every day and by the people we associate with...often other artists. We absorb creative ideas, we can't help it...we soak it in. And, it amazes me how many of us come up with the very same idea, at the very same time...probably an idea that has already been done at some point in the history of the world. It happens all the time. But, I do agree with those Project Runway judges; you must know what's going on in your field. You have to educate yourself, as much as possible, on what other artists are doing. That knowledge helps protect your own artistic integrity.
As talented as that Project Runway designer is, the judges gave her some very wise advice. As tough as it was for her to hear, if she accepts that advice, applies it wisely and continues moving forward, she'll have grown as an artist.
Talent + Knowledge + Wisdom = Artistic Growth