Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Copying the Masters

One of my first “homework” assignment as part of my new studies with Vianna Szabo included making smaller color studies of a few of my favorite paintings done by other artists. The reasoning behind this (I think) was to help me realize what elements contribute to a balanced composition and color scheme.

I’ve spent today doing a number of 8x10 and smaller paintings derived from a few of my favorite Wolf Kahn landscapes. What fun it has been to copy them – having the goal painting right next to me (well, ok, it’s a reproduction – as if I owned an actual Wolf Kahn! Hah!) while I work has allowed me to focus purely on color – the bulk of the other decisions have already been made.

I am amazed at he uses the same three or four hues consistently, just in varying combinations, within the same painting. How they get grayed or purpled out as they recede into the landscape. How he bounces bits of pure pigment around sparingly, to emphasize their intensity and pull your eye through the whole surface. Even though there are only a few main colors contributing to the piece, the color is saturated and balanced, and in my humble opinion, quite perfect.

It’s been a very fruitful day for me, despite the fact that the five paintings I created will never be for sale. BUT my creativity has been fed, I’m all the wiser for this experience, and I’m inspired to get going on the next portrait.

A POSTSCRIP: For hundreds of years, artists have learned by copying those who came before them. Copying is a fantastic way to LEARN. It is not a means, however, to earn a living. Should you choose to copy other artists’ work, protect yourself from copyright infringements by seeking their permission whenever possible and by taking the necessary steps to assure that the copied work does not hit the market and is never passed off as your own. We artists live by our skills and our reputation – one without the other is useless.

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