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Sunday, February 4, 2024

Useful Practice: Copying the Masters

**Authentically Human! Not Written by AI**

Who's the artist?
(, but I'm copying John Singer Sargent)

Copying masterworks is nothing new.  Art students have done it for as long as there have been art students.  It's a useful practice, because it helps you understand the master's process, and it can teach you about composition, color use and more.

Recently, I started taking an online Schoolism course from Nathan Fowkes, one called "Environment Design."  (Perhaps more about that in a future post.)  As one of the first exercises, he asks the student to copy ten paintings that the student admires, paying special attention to simplifying the painting and to exaggerating what each painting's about.

As much as I'd love to go to a museum and plop down my easel in front of a beautiful painting, I don't live anywhere near one.  Intead, I went to my collection of art books—these are big coffee table books that a weightlifter might use to train with—and laid them out on the workbench in my studio.  Paging through them, I put yellow sticky notes on paintings that I've admired over the years.  I went through a lot of yellow sticky notes.

Next, I pulled out my casein paints.  (Not sure what casein is?  I'll write about that next.)  As I worked on each copy, I propped up the book—not an easy task when it seems to weigh 20 pounds—and got to work.  Each copy was small, less than 9x12, and quick, no more than an hour, to avoid having time to add detail.  

With each copy, I posted an image of it on social media and asked followers to guess who I'd copied.  Most folks got them right, but one puzzled all but a friend of mine, a collector who knows his art. I thought I'd share my copies here, along with the names of the artists.  There were so many more I could copy, but I want to move on to the next section of Fowkes' course.

What did I learn from this exercise?  I'm not going to tell you.  Try making some copies yourself, and see what you learn. 

Yes, another Sargent.

Joaquin Sorolla

Granville Redmond
 (A California impressionist, but not a household name.)

Eduoard Manet