Amy's Whimsical Musings

Standing on the Shoulders: The Artists Who Have Influenced Me

I talk about remix a lot – probably more than most people. I even have a pretty meaty G+ community that houses all kinds of examples. I also sketch a lot- in fact, this past year, I’ve averaged about 10 sketches a day for my various projects: Serendipidoodle, #100daysofhashtaggerie, Drawmour, #threethirtysketchquote, and My day in One Word – not to mention the ones I do for keynotes (about 350 per one hour keynote). I upload most of these to my My-conography Tumblr. Sketching every day has been cathartic for me. When I’m stressed or sad, it’s the perfect release. I tend to look forward to the times I have to sketch (usually before 6am and after 7 pm, but I try to do that 3:30 one because that is my absolute worst time of day). Over time I’ve become more skilled, I think, and have developed a distinctive style. What they say about practice is true- you really do get better and it doesn’t have to be simply need to do a little each day. sakura

 “Sakura” – one of my favourite recent pieces

And to show you the value of practice, this is the VERY FIRST doodle I made with Paper 53.


Not a Sketchnoter!

Although I tend to use the app Paper by 53 (and their stylus, Pencil), I also enjoy analog doodling. People often lump me together with other edu-sketchnoters, but I try to make a distinction, because while oftentimes I am illustrating an idea (related to education or edtech), I tend to be more impressionistic. That is, true sketchnoters seem to try to capture a lot of ideas on one canvas…they synthesize information (brilliantly) from an entire lecture or article into one visual with many detailed components. They’ve developed a “visual grammar” with repeated elements, like connectors (arrows, etc.) and specific fonts that show hierarchy. On the contrary, I think of my approach as more of “metaphorical iconography”. It probably stems from my love of highly stylized graphic design, such as that found in 20th century propaganda posters.

Back to remix:

remixnotacrime I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, after being inspired by a friend who asked which artists inspired me and my style. Of course I believe wholeheartedly that creativity is nothing but connecting dots, and riffing on pre-existing work. As Austin Kleon says “you are a mashup of what you let into your life”. austinkleon

Portrait of Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist

My personal artistic tastes are very eclectic – I adore the chiarascuro of Caravaggio and the whimsy of Chagall...but when it comes to influencing my personal style, I think it comes down to a few greats – separated by the ages perhaps but definitely similar to some extent in style. caravaggio

(my remix of Caravaggio’s Sick Bacchus)

These are:

Albrecht Dürer (b. 1471) Edvard Munch  (b. 1863) Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (b. 1864) Pablo Picasso  (b. 1881) Saul Bass (b. 1920) Roy Lichtenstein (b. 1923) Shepard Fairey (b. 1970 – same year as me!)


durer portrait Albrecht Dürer’s woodcuts have that bold, line-y quality I just dig! I even did a replica of his famous rabbit for Easter. CBzCSjuUoAI00qV Albrecht D_rer - Young Hare He did other paintings of course (like his Metallica-esque self-portrait), but I just love the simple stylized woodcuttery. imagesdurer   My Chinese Ram was heavily influenced by Albrecht. chinese ram   gutenberg

I always thought my Gutenberg portrait looked like a woodcut


Like Dürer, the lines of lithography abound in Edvard Munch’s work. There are SO many versions of his “Skrik!” (i.e. The Scream) but my favourite has got to be the lithograph poster version – all black and white. Edvard Munch - AnxietyMunch_Meer_der_LiebemunchscreamlithomunchMadonnaHere is my remix of the Munch Madonna (above) CCS72_-UkAAwUhG


lautrec portrait When I was a child, my aunt had a Toulouse-Lautrec colouring book for adults that I of course stole and had my way with. I love his curvy lines and stylized, simple poster art. I adore other pieces by this quirky character (like his studies of Parisienne prostitutes) but I must say his poster art has influenced me greatly. How do you give energy and meaning in a few lines and splashes of colour. Also, his use of black is really key. lautrecgirl   images My remix of Jane Avril poster CCS75MCVIAA4N7d


CCFafLJUoAA7OyZ Ok, Picasso goes through styles like I went through boyfriends in college. However, my ultimate favourites are his line drawings. I like to push myself, like with this woman I drew for International Women’s Day, to really see how far a line can convey a message. B_l3MPpUsAE7KGj pablo-picasso-line-drawing-1368416412_org   B_08elYUYAAjn_M

Saul Bass

saul bass arm I must admit this man is can do no wrong in my eyes- he is my ultimate favourite of the lot. I even try to copy his famous mid-century cool typography! bass font   My dream house would be covered in Hitchcockian-Bass posters! Someone should really make Bass-inspired fabric for a clothing line- or maybe wallpaper. I love the bold, sharp jagged lines, especially. And the asymmetry. And the limited colour palette… 021_saul_bass_2_theredlist saul bass Saul-Bass-Style-Dr-No-Poster   rabbithole

Inspired in part by Saul Bass


I used this to represent “low barrier entry” but it’s quite Hitchock-meets-Bass


Talk about bold! Of course Lichtenstein’s primary colour cartoon-inspired style is the epitome of cool. I really love the composition – how he gets in close to his subjects and often cuts them off. Mostly I dig his girls. They are midcentury pretty and, being that I often draw girls, I tend to gravitate toward that aesthetic. 66.2_lichtenstein_imageprimacy_800 lichtensteingirl lichtenstein CCGVl2DUkAADBDc CCGVl0JUEAArIc_

Shepard Fairey

I’m a Fairey fan girl! His take on memes and remix culture have greatly influenced my personal philosophy. I tend to adore street artists in general for their sarky irony (like Banksy of course), but Shepard has such a propaganda-poster-derived style it’s right up my alley. My favourite piece of his is this girl: girl-grenade   This Swedish Easter card of mine was inspired by the above, CBtB33sUAAAY1dO Though I get really giddy over the use of a few black strokes to create my ultimate icon, Debbie Harry of Blondie. faireyblondie   I just love Gestalt! gestalt Specific artists aside, I think want to study more poster art, such as these examples from Poland, and work on developing stylistic elements to my sketching. polishposter polishposter2 polishposter3   And so, I “stand on the shoulders of giants” as I develop my own visual voice. P.S. some people have inquired why I keep to a restrained palette of black, white, and pink. I find that having a consistent and specific palette keeps me more focused yet frees me…I am more willing to draw if I don’t stress about which colours to use. It also helps in branding – people recognize my stuff without me having to sign it, though I have toyed with creating a remix of Dürer’s famous monograph. B_beSpCVEAAU2NP More importantly, I can mix and match all my drawings when I’m doing a keynote so everything just works. I’m interested in other artists, sketchnoters, and doodlers – who are your artistic influences, and why? See more of my work on Twitter at palette

Personalized Palette – you know, like your fingerprint 🙂

One comment on “Standing on the Shoulders: The Artists Who Have Influenced Me

  1. sensor63
    June 1, 2015

    I love this post Amy from a number of different perspectives. I would be interested to see how others express stuff graphically…

    I shall think about this:

    Leaning into light.

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