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Would Warhol Worship Wikipedia?

Only the rare artist can be perpetually find inspiration within herself. Most artists and writers look to culture and other people for inspiration. For example, Andy Warhol was inspired by everyday, contemporary objects like Campbell’s soup cans and Brillo pads. Today, we are so immersed in digital culture – why wouldn’t artists and writers look to the Internet and social media for inspiration?

In an article for the New York Times, Sara Corbett writes:

How is information technology changing the art world? The same way, you might argue, that it is changing everything else. It has put new tools into creative hands: there are artists making complicated impressionistic works using a paint application on their iPhones. There are artists working with G.P.S. mapping tools, hacking video games and creating art made from YouTube clips. Across the free-market souk of the Internet, more and more artists are trafficking in data, even as confusion about value and copyright proliferates.

And art in return is also changing information technology, by doing what art has done since the beginning, when the Babylonians first painted their palace walls, the Spanish royals first sat for a portrait or Gauguin first laid eyes on the South Pacific — by pushing the limits of our perception.

Here are 10 unique ways that artists have used the Internet to fuel their creativity:

Craigslist Missed Connections: Artist Sophie Blackall uses Craigslist’s Missed Connections section as inspiration for her art. She writes, “Every day hundreds of strangers reach out to other strangers on the strength of a glance, a smile or a blue hat. Their messages have the lifespan of a butterfly. I’m trying to pin a few of them down.” Her quirky illustrations include the headline and part of the original ad.

Art from spam: Inspired by the subject lines of spam e-mails, artist Linzie Hunter decided to incorporate the nonsensical arrangements of words into playful abstract works of art. According to her artist statement, Hunter believes that removing the subject lines from their original context makes them “…amusing, entertaining and sometimes inspirational meditations for modern life.”

Hand-drawn Twitter avatars: On David Hoang’s Twitter channel, you can watch this artist draw Twitter avatars. Users submit their images, or he randomly chooses an avatar to recreate. On his website (, Hoang writes, “In a world of “instant-uploads” and automatic avatar creations, I take a step back and spend 20-30 minutes on a high quality drawing for the Twitter user. In exchange of the user’s permission for me to use his/her photo, I also record the experience and present the final YouTube video as a music video.”

Farmville farm art: Some people get way too excited about their Farmville properties. A search for Farmville art on YouTube will reveal videos made up of screenshots from creative Farmville farms. Players stockpile their hay stacks and later use these hay stacks to make interesting images in their fields.

Facebook portraits: Matt Held paints Facebook profile pictures. Initially, he asked anyone interested in participating in his project to join his Facebook group. Currently, over 12,000 people belong to his group. Held chooses the most interesting profile pictures and draws them. For his portraits, he takes the subject’s personality into consideration; Held spends some time on the person’s Facebook profile and tries to get to “know” him or her better.

Facebook status updates as works of art: According to an article in Mashable, artist Stacey Williams-Ng creates oil paintings based on her friends’ Facebook status updates. These paintings were even on exhibit at a show in Wisconsin!

Nothing to Tweet Home About: Extremely inspired by the Internet, artist An Xiao specializes in art that spans the digital and analog worlds. For her project “Nothing to Tweet Home About”, Xiao sent about 100 postcards with a brief tweet and a geotag written on the back of each one. She arranged each postcard on a wall, where the tweets could be read outside of the digital context. Xiao writes, “…these updates can create an impression of an individual, a living self-portrait aggregated from minutiae from my daily life.”

Google Street View paintings: Even Google Maps Street View has inspired art. Oil painter Bill Guffey has created about three dozen paintings for his Street View series.

Google image search: Using watercolors, artist Ken Solomon is taking the screenshot to a while new level. Solomon Googles a famous artist, like Warhol, then makes a painting from of the Google Image search results.

Using Second Life to sell art in real life: Some artists, desperate to make a living from their craft, have found new and innovative ways to sell art online. In the article I quoted above, Corbett profiles a Second Life character named Filthy Fluno, who was created by a man who’s an artist in real life.

She writes: “…Filthy Fluno made so many friends and helped sell so much art that Lipsky decided it would be O.K. to quit his day job. Early last year, he managed to borrow an uncared-for couple of rooms above a clothing store in Lowell and converted them into a low-key studio gallery called CounterpART, which also has a twin gallery in Second Life — run by Filthy Fluno and featuring digitally uploaded versions of Lipsky’s work.”

How are you inspired by the Internet?

(Photo by wharman)

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