Sunday, February 22, 2009

TIP: Master Copies

If you haven't done this, believe me, it's totally worth it. Copying another artist's painting is like stepping into their brain. Sadie Valeri wrote a post on this with a very cool drawing. Maybe I'll do a real demo of this one day, but here are just some random thoughts on the matter, on how to get the most out of it.

It doesn't really matter if you're copying drawings or paintings. They're both highly informative. I did a few copies of Sargent drawings here and there - and hey I noticed Paul Foxton copied some of the same drawings. Cheers!

OK, that was a few years ago and I would do lots better now, I swear. But through that drawing, I learned a lot about his hatching, the lines he chose to erase vs rework, and how he distributed the shadow parts. That moustache is awe inspiring. I wish I could grow one.

The best place I know of to procure digital images for study is the Art Renewal Center. In their museum, there are loads and loads of high res images.

You don't have to copy a whole painting. Copying chunks is good too.

When you sign the painting, sign it "XXXX after Rembrandt" or whomever.

This is a biggie - try to match the work, stroke for stroke. The benefit to having the hi res images is that you can poke around in the corners looking for hints at the color of the ground, the quality of the sketch, the colors and finish level of the underpainting, and the technique of the final layers. This mental exercise is half the benefit of the process.

The other half is making your hand do what their hand did, after your brain does what their bran did (sorta). It's not enough to think it through, now do it. Do it to the nth degree. It's not easy - I won't lie to you.

When you've picked your painting, crop it to size, and work on a proportional surface. Gridding will help get the drawing in correctly - and you don't want to cut corners on this step. If your drawing isn't spot on, do not proceed.

Those are my random, disorganized thoughts on th ematter while we are out of coffee over here.

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1 comment:

  1. It’s difficult to fully appreciate the value of copying masterworks until you do a few. If you have a local atelier and want to try it in a more structured way, painting/drawing with the masters is a standard part of the curriculum, for all the good reasons you mention. I would also add that it’s a great way to learn anatomy and you’re guaranteed to end up with a beautiful piece of art for the effort.