Early Aesthetic Influences

I think everybody has some great influencers in their lives that changed them in some profound way.  I wanted to share some thoughts about early influences in my creative life, that have had some lasting impression to my aesthetic brain.  There are a few artists, some works of art, and a music video that I can still recall the moment I first experienced them.  Not only did they inspire me then, they continue to inspire me year in and year out.  I honestly never get tired of looking at or listening to these works.

1. M.C. Escher

My dad had a huge book of M.C. Escher's work, and I can't tell you how many times I looked through that thing as a kid.  I was obsessed with looking at the tessellations, but I also loved his pencil drawings and woodcuts.  The Adam & Eve was a personal favorite, as well as his Self Portrait using his image reflected into a sphere.  There's something a little sinister about M.C. Escher's work.  The sinister and creepy has been something that has always appealed to me, even as a kid.  The dung beetle piece, for example, was an early favorite.  The thing I love most about Escher's work is the fact that everything is produced so meticulously, which really allows the detail of the work to be star.  I could spend hours looking at these works, your eye finds something new continuously.  

2. Titian - Bacchus and Ariadne


Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne was the cover art to one of my favorite albums, Crash Test Dummies God Shuffled His Feet.  My dad and I listened to this record so much, that I can still sing along to every word of every song, even though I don't listen to it much anymore.  All of the band member's faces we superimposed onto the faces of the characters in the painting.  I spent a lot of time looking at this piece.  There is just so much going on in this painting.  Bacchus and all his partiers just kind of roll up on Ariadne, and Bacchus falls in love with her at first sight.  I love how this painting show's her initial fear response.  I was fortunate enough to see this painting at The National Gallery when I was in London in 2010.  It is massive and awe-inspiring to be in front of.  I sure teared up a bit, finally seeing this piece I had been staring at my whole life in person.

3. Madonna shot by David Lachapelle for Rolling Stone July, 1998

My parents had this issue of Rolling Stone in their office and I remember flipping through it countless times.  My eyes needed to consume this.  I didn't know at the time that I was looking at the work of epic photographer, David LaChapelle.  LaChapelle would become a favorite of mine, as I got to know more of his work, but nothing would arrest me quite like these photos.  The bright light, brilliant colors, and busyness is something that I continue to love.  I love the religious allusions as well, which would become a fixture of my artistic inspiration.  And I love Ray of Light era Madonna the best.  

4. Nine Inch Nails - Closer Music Video

I can vividly remember sitting on the floor at my grandparents' house, after they picked me up from school, in the family room, watching this video.  I remember how the carpet felt where I was sitting, and I remember changing the channel every time I thought I heard someone coming because I didn't want to get in trouble for watching music videos, especially this one, I was supposed to be watching Arthur.  But I remember furtively changing the channel back so I could watch more.  Everything about this was conscious altering to me, as an elementary school kid.  The sounds and the images blended into this perfect experience.  Not only did this reaffirm my love of creepy shit, I evolved to love electronic music and Trent Reznor as a musician as I grew older.  I could say a lot about it here, but I'll have to save it for another time.  I love also the symbolism in this music video.  

5. Dan Eldon - The Journey is the Destination : The Journals of Dan Eldon

This book is the compiled journals of photojournalist Dan Eldon, who was stoned to death in Somalia in 1993.  I read this book in high school and it inspired me to start art journaling.  I had always kept a diary, but after reading this, I began to make the pages into little works of art in themselves.  A lot of my ideas for pieces start out as art journal pages.

6. Hieronymus Bosch - The Garden of Earthly Delights

When I saw this painting, it was game over.  This was instantly my all-time, favorite painting ever.  Look at all that detail, you can gaze for hours at every single little thing.  It's got tons of creepy shit in it which is my favorite.  And, last but not least, more religious symbolism and myth.  There are hundreds of little stories being played out here in orgiastic glory.  The only reason I want to go to Spain is because the Museo del Prado has a Bosch collection, including this piece.  This is something I've never got tired of looking at.

7. Francisco Goya - Saturn Devouring His Children

Another one of my favorite paintings is at the Museo Del Prado.  This painting started my obsession with Romanticism.  Romanticism is the creepiest of creepy stuff.  How different this version of Saturn eating his children is from the Ruebens' version done in the 1600s.  Less than 200 years later and art is starting to push the boundaries to the abstract and avant-garde.  Saturn is a deranged and giant monster, maniacally devouring his adult child in a bleak and dismal setting.  The crude strokes add to the frenetic feeling of the piece, the red blood a gash across the canvas, drawing your eye to the psychotic stare of Saturn.  Doesn't get more horror film than that.

8. Chuck Close

Chuck Close is one of the great artistic geniuses of our time.  You really cannot feel the power of these pieces by looking at them on a computer screen.  They are enormous.  I was lucky enough to see them at the SF MoMA when I lived up there.  I can't find a picture of the one that was truly my favorite, one of his mixed media pieces made out of thousands of circles of greyscale felt.  It was similar to the second picture here which is made of buttons.  I absolutely adore his mixed media work like this and it has been a huge inspiration for some collage work I've done.

9. Salvator Rosa - Witches at Their Incantations

This is another painting I got to experience at the National Gallery in London.  Any guesses as to why I like it?  If you thought antique painters painting creepy shit, you thought right.  If you also thought insanely detailed, you are also correct.  So much action and movement in this piece.  I spent quite a long time with this one when I was at the Gallery.  The deeper you start to look in the background, the more you see.  Everything starts to have a face.  It's one of those grotesque paintings you can't stop looking at, but can appreciate aesthetically as well.  This is way sicker than The Craft!

Those nine pieces and artists have been so influential on me.  These are my favorite pieces of art, ones which I return to over and over again, or that have influenced my own art in some way.  What are your most influential pieces?  I'd love to learn about them or maybe we have some in common!