I am a firm believer that we glean things all the time from everything around us. What we see and what we do influences our art. It does for me. I also believe that there is really nothing out there that is really original anymore. I don't believe fine artists who say their art is original because they do not look at other people's art. Were they not influenced by someone else's art when they were in school or by their art instructor? Do you not remember these things and store it for another day. Every time I look at someone's art, I glean certain things from it and store it for another day and another project.
I am ambivalent and do not have a firm side in the argument about viewing other people's art. I can see both sides for different reasons. I don't understand how artists can say they don't look at what other artists do. It is difficult not to take in what other people are doing. I cannot live in a vacuum. So, I will do the teacher thing and look at both - kinda.
I am at a point now where I think I have a style that says "me". Several people have told me that they knew a piece was mine even before they looked at the name underneath it. For me, that is good thing. I work rather intuitively now when I put together a piece. At the same time, I am mindful of composition and collage elements/principles when I work. Sometimes, I don't care. I think that my art journey (which included looking at other people's work) has lead me to a good place. I am very comfortable with my art and what it says about me. I know what I want to say and how I can say it. Is that what you are working towards?
I can see the argument that looking at other people's work can heavily influence what you do. At the same time, you can take bits and pieces of what you like and change it to reflect what you want to say. Of course, saying it is easier than doing it. I think that we have all been at that stage where we copy someone else's style to see how it will fit our own. Progressing means that we move forward from there.
Another reason I like to look at other people's stuff is because I appreciate what other can do that I cannot. Just because I cannot do something does not mean I cannot appreciate it. Who knows? Maybe it will be something that I will tackle later down the road. I never really did any sewing before but have been doing quite a bit of it lately.
I encourage newbies and upcoming collage artists to look at what other artists do. That is a great way to look at different styles or composition and collage design elements and principles. It will also tell you what to and what not to do. The important thing is to go in with some knowledge of what is good and bad composition. Go and read stuff about collage design online or from a book or two. The information has been invaluable to me. Now, I can easily tell the work of a newbie and one that is more experienced. Looking at other work also helps you to identify what you would or would not do in a collage. Where your eye goes and whether the piece flows or not. What is distracting and what area lacks something. You don't have to follow the design principles/elements verbatim. It is just a guideline.
Since doing this, I still work quickly and intuitively but also think about composition, where my eye will go, value, contrasting color, focal images, etc...so that my piece will flow. It has helped me greatly in the message I want to convey.
Whenever I try a new technique, I sometimes follow it step-by-step. Often times, I do not. I think about what would happen if I did this, this,and this. The technique turns out to be mine by the end of the first or second attempt. That is how we learn. That is okay, people! How else are you going to expand your knowledge base?
Don't let other people tell you what to do. Do what is right for you. Don't let other people tell you that you shouldn't do something because it is popular. Do it because you want to. Do it because that is how you learn and progress. Don't ever listen to someone who tells you that you can't do something or you did not do it right. Right is relative in art. What I tell you is what I think. It does not mean it is right, just means that it is another point of view. Take it for what it is and move on.
Email me if you need permission to do something. I will grant it to you and encourage you in any way I can.