When I began to take a more-than-casual interest in photography, I began to look at the works of other photographers, which in turn led to an interest in art in general. For me, looking at artwork is a little like looking into a mirror – it reflects back to me my own interests, tastes and perceptions. Identifying and analyzing how others have considered and resolved artistic issues allows me to decide what I have liked and not liked about their approach, which helps me to understand myself a little better with respect to the things that I want to encourage in my own work versus those I don’t want to pursue.
The great thing about this is that there’s so much artwork available to practice on, both contemporary and historical. It allows you to experience art not just as a passive viewer, but as an active, critical participant. It’s a fun little intellectual exercise to engage in when looking at art (at least for me), with the practical payoff of helping to improve one’s own artistic development in the process.