How Artistic Trends Emerge

Nina Pandolfo, Breathe Slowly, 2015

Since the dawn of time, artistic trends are inner parts of the evolution and the History. As an ongoing dialogue, the history of Art has a long and colorful map of where it derives inspiration from. For the Greeks, it was the Muses. For the Enlightenment, it was Science and Liberalism. For contemporary artists, however, inspiration seems to come from everywhere and nowhere all at once. The artists of today are being inspired by a wide range of influences that is impossible to nail down to any one thing. With the innovation of the internet, allowing artists all around the world to share and disseminate their work, the Art world has been a radically shifting and unstable scene for years. What does this mean? Great art, with an almost limitless supply of trends and inspiration!

So just what are artistic trends anyway?

artistic trends -The Cher effect with song Believe
Cover of Cher’s album Believe

Artistic trends are the same as trends in anything else – take music for instance. In the 80’s there weren’t any artists using autotune in the same way that we know it nowadays. What’s called ‘the Cher effect’ debuted with her hit song Believe in ’98. This lead to a trend that still surfaces itself in popular culture to this day, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to end anytime soon.

In art, a trend is very similar. For conceptual art, one of the more dominant styles of art in our contemporary landscape, trends tend to follow ideological and abstract examples. Themes of resistance to oppression and identification of identity are prevalent – in one of the more politically motivated and famous recent art installations, Shia LeBeuf’s He Will Not Divide Us, we can see both of these trends on display. Artistic trends being a political expression are running themes in our modern world.

In short, an artistic trend is an aspect of work that can be traced to a source that has promulgated into various pieces of art. Autotune, for instance, has gone from a singular musical device to a popular musical effect, and even to parody and satire.

The myriad of influences

So what else inspires artistic trends in 2017? Inspiration can be found everywhere, and it’s interesting to see all the various places that it can crop up. From music and movies to the unending political drama that unfolds in front of us on a daily basis, there is no end to a number of influences on our currently active artistic culture.


One of the biggest and influential art forms remains music. From every historical era, music has had an incredibly diverse and profound effect on artists of all kinds and art in our world is no different. Basquiat, for instance, had his own punk band called Grey and the Swiss-American artist/musician Christian Marclay blends music with his art. Of course, the reverse is also true and many pop music artists have taken great inspiration from works of art themselves. The brilliance of music is the interpretive strength it has – music of all kinds is very abstract, yet intensely emotional. Because of this, the ability of artists to use this evocative medium to their hearts content is almost limitless.

artistic trends - Basquiat with his jazz band
Pop artist Jean-Michel Basquiat with his jazz band


There are countless examples of art that have taken direct inspiration from modern movies. Websites like Deviantart and Pinterest are great resources for these, because our fascination and interest in artistic trends in movies is a growing cultural phenomenon. Although not precisely contemporary, one of the most obvious examples of a direct and masterful piece of work influenced by movies was Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World, which has the Wizard of Oz written all over it. It’s also difficult to not see the profound effect huge, pop-culturally relevant IPs has had on the art scene, with worlds such as Star Wars completely suffusing modern culture from all angles.

artistic trends - Christina's world by Andrew Wyeth
Christina’s World – painting by Andrew Wyeth displayed at the MoMA NYC


One of the most enduring and relevant ways in which the art world shifts and produces new content is through the words of powerful and inspirational authors. Everything from the gorgeous cover art of The Great Gatsby and Dali’s Mad Tea Party, to this brilliant homage to Little Red Riding Hood by Su Blackwell, books have remained a wonderful source of inspiration to thousands. The tradition to immortalize words with art has been around for thousands of years and will remain strong so long as we all keep reading.

artistic trends - Mad Tea Party by Salvador Dalí - Inpsired by Alice in Wonderland
Made Tea Party by Salvador Dalí – Inspired by Alice in Wonderland story


We live in an ever political time period where everywhere we go we hear about the latest scandals and drama from our political figures. The 21st century has always been divisive and controversial, and the artistic trends reflect this. From controversial political cartoons such as the ones Charlie Hebdo and Jyllands-Posten (the Danish newspaper which showcased the drawings of Muhammed) created to more current ones about the President of the United States, there will always be artists who express themselves politically through their art. Artists all over the world hold power with their creations and will always have a voice to express themselves.

Arttistic trends - satyrical comment on Fascism by artist Ottmar Horl
Ottmar Hörl with his Nazi gnomes in Straubing, Germany. Satyrical comment on Fascism.

One of the most important uses of art in politics is the voice it gives the disenfranchised. One of the first things that dictators and despots do is to silence art and artists, and revolutionary art has inspired and emboldened people across the world for ages.

Personal Life

Of course, along with the political reality of the world comes the reality of the personal life of the artist themselves. It is impossible for the artist to separate themselves from their creations, and some use their art as a mechanism to deal with all kinds of personal issues. Artists express their emotions through creativity and artistic trends. Van Gogh famously utilized his art to deal with his depression, even inside of a mental institution, and contemporary artists like Tracey Emin talk about using their work to deal with internal struggles. The inner life of an artist can be an extremely varied and fertile source of inspiration and the trend of utilizing your own experience to exorcize your own demons is a trope that has lasted for centuries.

Artistic trends - Van Gogh - The Starry Night
The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh.


While seemingly an unlikely place to draw inspiration for beautiful pieces of artwork, there are many examples of athletes becoming famous enough to warrant the keen and discerning eye of artists around the world. From Muhammad Ali’s famous photo of his knockout of Sonny Liston, Terry Fox’s run across Canada, and even Joe DiMaggio hitting a home run, the lives of athletes represent the highs that humans can achieve. The drama inherent in sports allows us to imagine many great things, and sports will remain an inspirational force because of it.

Artistic trends - Sport - The DiMaggio cut by Leroy Neiman 1998
The DiMagio cut by Leroy Neiman (1998)


Another crucial and effective source of inspiration for artistic trends in contemporary art has absolutely benefited from the dreams of its artists. Having been an incredible source of resources for the Surrealist movement, dreams have been a continual source of refreshing imagery and abstract interpretation, even lending itself to its own discipline of art theory. Sleep Paralysis, for instance, is the chief motivator of Elme Bekker, a South African fashion artist. Her work is dreamlike and frightening and its connection to the sleeping world is readily apparent.

Artistic trends - Dreams - White mask by fashion artist Elme Bekker
White mask by Fashion artist Elme Bekker

Other Artists

It seems obvious, but the more art that is created the more mixing and sharing occurs, and this contemporary setting is absolutely no different from any other. Not only are there direct successors for artistic trends, such as the ongoing Pop Art scene which shares many elements of its 60’s counterparts, to art that is much more traditional in context, content and imagery, the fact that art continues to talk to itself in an ongoing dialogue remains one of the chief reasons that the medium is as healthy as it is. One of the most important things for any innovation in any field is the ability to learn from the past and make iterative changes, and contemporary artists succeed using historical methods continually.

Van Gogh’s Almond Blossom, 1890. Artistic trends
On the right Van Gogh’s Almond Blossom, 1890. On the left, Deborah Brown’s Tete (2003) evokes Van Gogh’s almond branches.


Nothing has been more inspirational to human beings than nature itself and our contemporary era is absolutely no exception to this. The world we live in is a beautiful, continually shifting world that evokes all kinds of feelings deep within our hearts. From artistic trends and standouts like Monet and Van Gogh to more modern examples like Canada’s Robert Bateman or artists who use nature in a more abstract way, it’s clear that the world itself can generate an incredible amount of inspiration and artistic detail. The great thing is, for every distinct region on the planet, there are artists working their creativity in praise of it. Natural art is just as varied as the world itself and all of it pays homage to the land we call home.

Robert BAteman - Canadian naturalist Painter
Robert Bateman – Canadian naturalist painter.

Influences for artistic trends are as varied as humanity itself

It doesn’t matter if you were an artist alive in the 5th century, or a graffiti artist in 2017’s New York, the sources of inspiration remain relatively the same. Artists gain their inspiration from all kinds of places, from all kinds of people and experiences, and they use all of them to express their vision through art. It is a testament to the most brilliant artistic trends and minds that they are able to take these various influences and translate them into objects of stunning beauty and vision.

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