15 Seriously Badass Artistic Influences

After I saw this post by artist Yoku Shimizu listing 15 influences she’d have forever, I knew I had to draw up one myself.

I’m bursting with inspiration all the time, but the most important influences that keep surfacing in my work are:


1. Paul Klee. This guy’s pretty much an unrelenting genius. His style is deceptively simple, but if you try to draw like this, you will not be able to pull it off with nearly as much pinache. He knows how to work colors, and shapes, and create whimsical yet slightly sad worlds. I’m pretty sure I have entire sketchbooks that look like this from high school.

Influences-McKean2. Dave McKean. Probably best known for his collaborations with Neil Gaiman (the covers of Sandman and the film Mirrormask), this guy was schooling everyone in Photoshop before most people had even heard of it. His style has many imitators, but no one is capable of doing quite what he does. I honestly don’t even try any more.


3. Diane Arbus.
The debate over whether her first name it pronounced “Dee-Anne” or “Die-Anne” is only one of the many issues surrounding this artist’s cryptic work. I love the square format and simple black-and-white portraits filled with the mysterious odd people. It’s some seriously stark shit, people.


4. Freak show posters.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I love this style of art. It’s a true mix of art and design — it serves an economic purpose, but is still beautiful. I love that people just used house paint on tarp and lugged these things around in the rain. Freak show posters are rugged, enduring, and quirky — just like the people they depict.


5. 90s Alternative/Industrial Rock.
Trent Reznor, Marilyn Manson, Billy Corgan, et cetera. These gents were my first exposure to the line of reasoning that got me to those freak show posters and Diane Arbus photographs. The late ’90s music video culture gave me a lot of tasty visuals to grow on.


6. Frida Kahlo.
Frida! You crazy bitch! I love you! I love your acceptance of your mustache, your symbolism, your sadness, and your colors. I even sort of loved the Selma Hayek movie about you. Sort of.


7. Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.
Gay power art duo of the 50s and beyond, known for their pointed commentary on American society. Their use of collage, found imagery, pop iconography, and religious history was brilliant. They produced ridiculously quality work for decades.


8. Illuminated medieval manuscripts & bestiaries. 
I know it’s weird, but I wound up doing an entire project on bestiaries in design school and haven’t looked back. Thanks, old-timey people who thought the rest of the world was full of freaks. I appreciate your contribution to pseudoscience.


9. Marie Antoinette.
She’s my muse. It’s mostly the hair, but it’s also the sass. She would have been the Head Bitch in Charge of Real Housewives of France, if such a thing had existed.


10. Alexander McQueen.
I started crying like a child when he passed. He brought serious edginess and originality into the often-humdrum world of high fashion. If I could, I’d follow Lady GaGa’s example and just wear his clothing all the time.


11. Harry Potter.
The wizarding! The outfits! The spells! The typography! The mythical creatures! The wonderfully bitchy Wizard-supremacist antagonist! Cars that fly! I mean, come on guys. This shit really is magic. Just ask J. K. Rowling’s bank account. Is it still true that she’s richer than the queen? Whatever. If she’s not, she should be.


12. Science fiction — especially when it’s cheesy.
Sure, let’s just make all aliens regular people with something hot-glued to their faces. That’ll do the trick, mostly because science fiction is social commentary, not actual science. It can have actual science (or, in the case of Star Trek, inspire actual science), but that’s not quite the point. Also, when sci-fi goes wrong, there’s a very specific retro-futuristic aesthetic that I love.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, George Takei is in this collage twice. His past self is looking at his lizard self with concern.


13. Arkham Asylum’s resident villains. 
What’s more outlandish than a rich guy using his fancy toys to fight crime? The people who he has to deal with while he’s doing it. The clowns in love. The woman who can manipulate plants. Whatever the hell Killer Croc is supposed to be. The guy who people hallucinate their worst nightmares. The guy who wants to live out a Lewis Carrol novel. The girl who runs around in a cat outfit. A guy with a literal “split personality.” A guy who uses penguin-related weaponry, booby-trapped umbrellas, and a top hat. If you can dream it, it can become a villain in Batman. Even if you never could have possibly dreamed up, there’s someone weirder than you who can dream it up, and they will. This illustration is from here.


14. Shepard Fairey & street art.
Shepard’s style is so iconic that it’s hard to distinguish his original work from that of wannabes. His Obama “hope” poster, for example, has spawned plenty of lookalikes. You know you’re good when everyone wants to be you. Damn, that is some slick, clever stuff. Yum.


15. Day of the Dead and Halloween.
Days that are dedicated to being colorful and dead at the same time? Yes. I’m there. I’ll meet you at half-past Morbid O’Clock.

I love these beautiful things and hope to honor them by continuing to create things inspired by them. I hope you enjoyed this post, and I wish you a happy weekend!