Your life is short, why study things, people, or art of which/whom you don’t care about?
1. Who inspires you?
Study who you want to imitate.
For example, I study the greats and geniuses of the past, because I want to emulate them. I want to be like them.
I want to have the single-minded focus of Steve Jobs. I want to have the hustle of JAY Z, I want the Dionysian drunkenness of creation like Kanye, I want the Zen-like calm and magnanimity of Seneca, and I want to help empower humanity like Elon Musk.
I am generally led by my own curiosity, to great figures that I find inspirational.
2. You can only learn through imitation
There is no shame to want to imitate others. After all, all humans learn via imitation. Picasso imitated Raphael before he found his own voice. Henri Cartier-Bresson studied the Surrealists until he found his own voice. Millennia of poets have been copying or inspired by Homer and Horace.
3. Who are your Artistic Role Models?
I remember as a kid, always being asked, “Who is the role model you look up to?”
Nowadays, the talk of “role models” isn’t really around. Why not? Perhaps media has made horrible role models. Perhaps because there are fewer noble cultures in modern society, when compared to the past.
Regardless, I let my role models shape who I am. I had great role models in church, Boy Scouts, my tennis teacher Greg Lowe, my mom— being the best role model of all, with her optimism, drive, hustle, and unconditional love for me and my sister.
If you want to become a truly great artist… find inspirational artistic role models from the present or past. I prefer past role models, because you don’t envy or feel jealousy towards dead artists. Not only that, but you can better survey their work— over their entire lifetimes. I find inspiration in Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Richard Avedon, Picasso, and Steve Jobs.
4. Avoid the work of who you consider boring
When I study the masters of photography, I only study the photographers whose work I like. I think you should do the same— only focus your energy and time on studying photographers or artists you like.
Your life is short. It is a waste of time to study all the great artists and photographers from the past. My practical recommendation: just get to know one photographer very very well, and study their work for a few years, and seek to learn everything about them you can. Study all their images, their pictures, and their life and artistic philosophy. Buy their books, read their interviews…and then seek to become BETTER than them! And when you want to continue growing, then move onto studying other photographers.
I know a lot of superficial knowledge on many photographers and artists. But the photographers whose work I know the best is Henri Cartier-Bresson, Josef Koudelka, and Richard Avedon. I see myself as a hybrid, or chimera between all of them. But slowly and surely… I’m creating my own genius. I’m creating myself, and my own image as a photographer and artist. Of course, I’m still learning, developing, and growing and have not reached the pinnacle of my personal evolution — yet. But it is that desire for personal grandeur which is the flame which inspires me, and drives me forward.
Conclusion: Boost yourself to the next level
So friend, to conclude— don’t study boring photographers or artists. Ignore the art critics, and art snobs. You have the ultimate say in who you consider boring or not.
Nietzsche has the panache to call Plato “boring”. Nassim Taleb has the huevos to call our who he considers “intellectuals yet idiots”.
Have the courage, confidence, the conviction to only study the artists, philosophers, and poets who inspire you. And once again, find gratitude in them, but don’t be their slave. Use them as a “boost” to advance you a higher level.