Thursday 2 August 2012

"Learn from everyone, follow no one"

At 59 years old, Mr. Liak Teng Lit has overseen the construction of the award winning Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, and is now planning the upcoming Yishun Community Hospital.

However, why I chose to bring him up is because of his life motto; "learn from everyone, follow no one". That holds true in all artistic endeavors. You learn from Old Masters, brilliant contemporary artists whom you admire, take lessons from the few who are still alive today, and attempt to mimic a certain artist's style or brushstrokes. Yet, you don't want to be any of them. You want to be you. An original, one of a kind, no-other-artist-has-your-style, you.

I had a fear, once upon a time, in the past, that if I copied or mimicked another artist's work, I will become him, and will forever more walk in his shadow. It was not until very recently that I began to understand that when you copy another artist's work, (you of course, cannot sell that work.) you learn how he/she came to get to the finish point of the painting. You learn how to make certain brushstrokes, how to mix a certain color, the composition of the piece, and lots more. You like the painting for reasons, and it's only when you retrace the artist's steps that you begin to learn from someone else.

As my dad once said; "Make sure you're practicing the right technique. Else, all you're doing is practicing your mistakes."

Personal style, as we call it, will come with time and practice. For now, learn from people you admire. And never fear that you'll walk in the shadow of someone else, because everyone's artistic journey is different. Everyone is unique.

Learn from everyone. Follow no one.

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