How to Take Inspiration from the Icons: Artists to Learn From

Having the inspiration to guide you through your artistic journey is easier than going alone. Learning from your predecessors and mentors is a pleasure, and it is also one of the pillars of becoming a skilled painter. Having someone to assist you to improve your talents, openly evaluate your work for the better, and lead you during your career is a benefit you should cherish to avoid being lost.

Furthermore, having somebody to help you along the way may extend your views, expand your perspective, and provide you with new possibilities to develop your identity in the creative world. Not every aspirant artist can afford to attend art school or painting classes to advance their career. However, you may take inspiration from the icons and learn from their techniques, mistakes, and triumphs.

Have you ever heard the saying, "Behind every great artist is a great artist, and behind every great artist is another great artist?" This remark is very true to its meaning since any work made by any artist was inspired by another artist at some time. Art, by definition, is replication, but it doesn't imply we should duplicate and try to copy the work of other painters and artists.

This means that we should draw inspiration for our creativity and ingenuity from other individuals, our surroundings, and, above all, nature. If you don't know where to begin while creating anything on a canvas, simply gaze, and you'll ultimately see your idea which will lead you to experimentation. With these, we have emphasized the reasons why you should take inspiration from the icons and your surroundings.

However, we will be focusing on why you should learn from famous painters. So, in this article, we will be looking at a list of famous artists to learn and take inspiration from. Keep on reading to learn more!

A painter painting on white canvas

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Creating artwork is not always simple; we require mentors and direction to show us the way, to provide us with a clear direction, and inspire us to learn from our mistakes, never cease to create, and widen our horizons to discover new things. Before we delve into the list of artists to take inspiration from, let us first learn why we should take inspiration from the icons in the next section.

Why You Should Take Inspiration from the Icons

Many artists had mentors before becoming well-known and famous. Following that, they, too, became mentors. Let us use Da Vinci as an example once more. The man was born with greatness and talent. But, do you believe him to be one of the greatest artists in history? His talents were unquestionably flawless due to his intense enthusiasm and attention to detail in his works.

However, somebody behind that expertise assisted him in furthering his abilities. Andrea del Verrocchio was a brilliant artist who inspired Leonardo da Vinci. Verrocchio may not be an established artist as his protégé since he seemed to dwell in Da Vinci's shadow, but he is unquestionably responsible for what Da Vinci became. To this day, Da Vinci is an inspiration from the icons to learn from, and he became a mentor, too.

Another example would be Michelangelo who took inspiration from Bertoldo di Giovanni, a sculptor who influenced Michelangelo’s sculptural styles and ideals. Another mentor of Michelangelo was Domenico Ghirlandaio, who inspired him with detailed frescoes.

A Michelangelo's David statue

Learn and Take Inspiration From the Icons Below

    1.  Mark Rothko:

Rothko was one of the most famous modern abstract expressionist artists and his name remains in prominence in today's art landscape. He was known for his color field paintings where he was able to express the core of fundamental complex feelings in paintings and then elicit those sensations from his audience. Oftentimes, artists like Rothko were given criticism due to their childlike artworks.

However, childlike is a description that Rothko would take as a compliment because he believed that art should be taught to children regardless of their age and artistic capabilities (or the lack thereof). Rothko emphasized that anybody, regardless of skill or technical experience, may create art. Art, as per the artist, is a necessary facet of human existence. And, just as children may rapidly learn storytelling or rhymes, they can effortlessly transform their thoughts and fantasies into art.

Moreover, Rothko believed that art was all about expression—transforming one's feelings into visual cues that everyone could comprehend. And children do it effortlessly, vividly, and beautifully.

Art painting museum at the Hague

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    2.  Yayoi Kusama:

Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese modern artist who predominantly works in sculpting and installations but also other artistic disciplines including painting, fashion, and performance art. She was noted for her dot-filled works, which arose from the many disturbing psychotic episodes and imaginings she had as a child.

Her life is both a moving testimonial to the therapeutic importance of art and a lesson in human resilience. As a kid, afflicted by a mental condition and mercilessly tortured by a heartless mother, the artist endured by channeling her delusions and personal obsession into creative artistic production across several genres.

Despite her upbringing in a conventional, unempowered Japanese society and her career's emergence in the male-filled New York art world, this has shaped a lifetime devotion to innovation at any expense.

A photo of a lady in pink

    3.  Jean-Michel Basquiat: 

While Basquiat never got a proper art education, he was a keen student of art history from an early age. Born and raised in Brooklyn, his mother took him to the vast Brooklyn Museum nearby where he became a "junior member" at the age of six. Even in elementary school, Basquiat's artistic style defied traditional skill criteria.

Basquiat resisted regular schooling as he got older, moving from class to class before quitting after his junior year. From thereon, he found his strength in self-studying where he improved his skills and creativity as an artist. After quitting school, he grew increasingly angry at artistic conventions and the art industry, which he saw as an impenetrable, biased institution.

While Basquiat experienced discrimination and criticism due to his race during his lifetime, he persevered and never cared about them. The point was, that people were only critical because of his ethnicity, but never much of his artworks. He then transformed racism into artworks that continue to influence and represent anti-racism movements to this day.

A multi colored graffiti painting

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    4.  Vincent van Gogh: 

He is without a doubt one of the most impactful and motivating creative minds to have ever lived. He is commonly considered the finest Dutch painter since Rembrandt due to the intense psychological and emotional impacts of his powerful use of color and distinct, perfect brushwork. Throughout the 20th century, his art had a significant influence on  Fauvism, Expressionism, and early abstract art.

His painting career may not have been as successful during his lifetime as it is today, but it may motivate us to endure and keep working for our passion. His paintings are now known all over the world, and he has inspired many people to chase their dreams and practice relentlessly.

A man and woman observing a painting

    5.  Pablo Picasso:

Another household staple in the art world to take inspiration from. Pablo Picasso is one of the finest painters in the world from whom you may learn. This is a man who was bold enough to shape his fate by seeking methods to redefine himself, regardless of what his adversaries thought. He loved doing art the way a child would-- focusing on the necessary, process-oriented, playful, colorful, and not caring about how it looked in the end and what others would think about it.

Among the many things that we can learn from him are originality, inventiveness, and perseverance. Throughout his life, he never failed to deliver artworks that were unique to many people's eyes, regardless of the negative criticism they may have created. Moreover, he created thousands of artworks including paintings, sculptures, prints, and even films. These just show that artists must persevere to strive for greatness.

A Picasso Pablo Picasso in a museum

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