All artists essentially borrow from artists of the past in much the same sense that authors or fashion designers do. Pablo Picasso, for example, borrowed from pictures by Cranach and Titian, Poussin and Ribera, Chardin and Zurbarán, El Greco and Courbet, Degas and le Douanier Rousseau. The list goes on and on. The real trick of any artist is to consume massive amounts of information, images, words, poem...anything and anything...the real sorts of things to be socially conscious of the state of affairs in the world.
In my studio I have a pile of magazines (the economist, time, art news, etc.) and three months worth of the new york times, in addition to bookcases full of books pertaining to various subjects (history, poetry, art, sociology, etc.). As every creation is limited only by one's particular store of knowledge, my challenge is not to read everything, to know everything but to know just enough to accomplish the painting or project at hand...today and tomorrow.
"Painting is just another way of keeping a diary"