I just visited the Toledo (Ohio) Art Museum and they had a wonderful painting by Kehinde Wiley. Instead of rejecting the past and trying to do something completely new, he has made himself a clear descendant of classical portrait artists.
Looking at his paintings, you can see all the symbols and elements of classics portraits, but they are in slightly different contexts. Sometimes, just putting someone in a classic pose with modern clothes on creates an amazing new piece.
It got me thinking about how much potential there is in completely owning the past and clearly showing the lineage of what you do. When you are trying to create something new, don’t throw everything out. Keep what works and make it better and different.
One more note about Wiley’s paintings, in person, the skill level and craft is tremendous. In the tiny versions on the web some of them appear tossed off. In person, they are huge, amazingly crafted pieces with great detail.