imitating the masters

around this time, i think during a plateau, i started copying paintings by other artists — not the step-by-step demonstration paintings, but paintings i liked or that seemed to have some special technical kick i wanted to learn through imitation.

these didn't have to be images i fell in love with, just paintings i thought were really well done.

unlike the momentary and spontaneous gift images, these reproductions were permanent, in a book or magazine, and could be studied intensively. hues could be compared side by side, and drawings superimposed with a magnajector to check for drawing accuracy.

if i found a painting that seemed to model light very effectively, then by copying it i could identify where my own methods for modeling light were coming up short.

the painting evening landscape in the mark brandenberg, for example, struck me as a beautiful evocation of light, but i found when i copied it that i missed the darker foreground values by quite a lot, even though the hues are fairly close.

it's these dark values, the shadows of unseen hills and trees, played against that unfelt sunlight in the far distant fields, that give the original painting its unique and touching nostalgia.

the graceful low sweep of the hills in the original is important, too: this is apparent in the copy, where my more rounded hills make the landscape appear static.

and it's crucial to the emotional effect that the shadowed slopes and distant sunlit fields be a similar hue, adjusted only in saturation and value. my shadowed foreground is too light valued and too saturated, ruining the subtle feeling of cold and pall in leistikow's shadows.

copies helped to develop my artistic sense for design by revealing the elements of an image that were important to its overall effect. in my colormad way i focused primarily on getting the hues as close as i could, when in fact i should have been paying attention to the values and contours as well.

the acid test was always whether i liked the painting i had made as much as the original. if i liked it, it didn't matter so much whether it looked like the original. the liking meant i had somehow been successful at capturing the artistic spirit of the original image, its energy or features or color personality ... or had found some new beauty of my own.

if i didn't like the copy, then i studied it against the original until i felt i understood why i thought the copy was inferior. this taught me design or technical principles to watch for as i worked.

the principles that i identified in this way developed out of paintings i already selected as admirable, so i felt that they would lead me in the artistic direction i wanted to go.

<< l a s t

n e x t >>