There is nothing new under the sun. All is vanity. These are the words that the famous king of Israel, King Solomon, most likely wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes. I feel as though we often ignore the context of these verses. However, Solomon’s statements hold true regardless of the context. Almost everything in the world is based off of something that already exists. Thus, what we make is not necessarily new, but a remix of things that have already been made. These thoughts seem to me like terribly deterministic and nihilistic ways of thinking. However, the idea of everything as a re-amalgamation is not wrong. I would prefer to refer to what is recycled as new, since it is in the image of the old but markedly different. Unfortunately “beggars cannot be choosers”. Two of the things I love most in the world, graphic design and art, are based on this concept of remixing. I would not be able to make anything if I did not remix.
There have been many movements in the history of graphic design, and each has influenced the current modern design style. As a student of graphic design, I am bound by this modern style and its fore-bearers. Outside of these styles I have no idea or reference of what good graphic design looks like. Also, I am inspired to create by the creative designs found in these styles. Thus, I have used these styles as a basis for everything I have learned and created in the realm of graphic design. However, I have taken great care to make each piece inspired rather than copied. On this note, many would say that for learning purposes, one should actually copy what others have done. This is an extremely common practice for artists, and the pieces made from this copying are referred to as “master sketches”. Another reason that the idea of remixing in graphic design is unavoidable is that clients very rarely want something designed specifically in a new graphic designer’s style. The client, nine times out of ten, wants their piece made in someone else’s style, because that style is what they have had access to.
While the graphic design pieces I create are inspired by the graphic design I have seen, the art style I love is rooted even more in the idea of using that which is old. The neo nordic and celtic knotwork drawings I make use the same shapes and knots that were used by the ancient Celts, Picts, and Vikings. My drawings are also heavily influenced by the styles of current neo nordic artists. Two reasons for this being that I want to maintain the style of the people groups mentioned above, and I want to recall the ideas and stories of these people groups. Another reason I use similar designs is that I very much like the personal styles that some neo nordic artists have created from the Old Norse artifacts. While I purposefully try to stick extremely close to the neo nordic styles, I make sure to create something that is my own, differentiated enough from the artworks I am inspired by.
The British street artist Banksy captured this strange relationship between origin and inspiration in his piece “Picasso Quote”. This piece consists of a marble slab in which is engraved this quote by Picasso: “The bad artists imitate, the great artists steal”. In true Banksy style, the artist scratched out Picasso’s name and scrawled his own underneath. One must steal just well enough in order to be a great artist. If Banksy had not had satirical intentions, then his piece would be a very bad example of remixing. Overall, there is nothing made that does not have its root or inception in something that has already existed.