Wednesday, October 7, 2015

3) "Copying a master's work" (or attempting to re-create as best as you can)

Next in my "personal challenge" practice tips, is something I've always heard other artists speak of while in art school. While I personally had never heard of this practice while in school, I often thought that it would be a very useful and fascinating way to focus on technique as well as determine various aspects of your own personal work in comparison to your "hero's" work.

This was an incredibly fun and also very sobering practice for me in that the weaknesses in my skills are even more apparent as I attempted to re-create a personal art hero of mine, Holly Hobbie. I've been a fan of her's since the Hollie Hobbie lunch box I used to carry around back in elementary school, and more recently, her incredibly wonderful Toot and Puddle series of books. Who can resist those wonderful pigs! 


I'm hoping someone who's worked on their own "copy" of a master's work can help me here, and correct me if I'm wrong in this approach, but from what I believe is the task, it is to try to re-create exactly what the master has created. In doing so, especially by laying paint down, you can more clearly see how the master has created shadow, contrast, lighting, detail, and specifics such as determining which colors they've used to create shadow, etc.

One of the images I've loved from the book Toot and Puddle, is the page of spot illustrations of Puddle "preferring to stay home".

I decided to take a stab at the first image, with a twist so as to not completely "copy" her artwork. I must say, I'm quite the honest gal and had a really hard time with the concept of copying, but in this task, I felt it was in an effort to learn and is also because I admire her work so sincerely, that I hope that she wouldn't mind my attempt.

OK, so the first thing I did was google "old comfy antique chair". I found this wonderful image on the internet from http://tiffersupholstery.com
I then sketched the chair and added my little pig character and gave him a container of popcorn, just for fun and to make it different than Holly Hobbies'.

As I painted with watercolor (determined by reading the interior credits of the book), I started very lightly. I was timid at first trying to capture the exact tones of her pig to my pig and then realized that my brushes weren't tiny enough. I still question how she paints her thins so thin! I even tried my 00 Sable. Here's my first attempt:
 
As I stared and stared at her work, you'll see that she doesn't leave any pencil work in her paintings..I'm thinking because she paints all the detail work and doesn't need to sketch it in (cause that's how a master rolls! :) ) But in my effort above, you can see my stray pencil lines.
In her wonderful work, her detail of the chair is crisp..see those very thin brown marks? Do you think they were painted, penciled, or inked? I decided that maybe it was ink on top of the paint, so in my attempt, you'll see the very noticeble sepia ink marks (especially in the chair).

Being disappointed with my work, I decided to call it a night.

I picked this up again the next day and decided to re-paint some of the detail and add even more contrast as I noticed that side by side in "Preview" on my mac, you can completely see the difference in contrast between the master and the novice. Her Puddle's face has such detail and shading, and so I thought, wow, I better add some more pigment!




I also noticed there was more shadow in the chair cushions which definitely added depth and solidness to her piggy, and when viewed small, her image pops off of the white backgrounds so beautifully! I decided to add a little more contrast to the cushions. I then went and added the tiny dots to the fabric to add a little more depth to the piece. I think it helped a little! I also added more blue in the shadow below the chair.

Here's the 2nd attempt:
 
Here are the before and after side by side. I really like being able to take a quick screen capture to see the difference quickly!

Overall, I have a long ways to go, but this practice of "copying a master" (or at least a semi-version where you study a master's work and add your own twist to it), gives you another way to look at your work in comparison to someone's you strive to reach toward. While trying to paint Holly Hobbies' pig tones, it became even more apparent that she pays incredible attention to shadow, light and form. Something I've forgotten a lot about while painting characters. It's fascinating to think about how if a light source were hitting the top of the pig's head, how would the skintones be painted to show the effect of diminishing or increased shadow as the form is hit by light?

Also in this exercise, I now realize that my specific Sepia ink will bleed on top of a dried watercolor painting. I knew that it was not waterproof before and that it surely would bleed if painted over the ink, but I did not realize the reverse was true. For some reason I thought it would have stayed more crisp.

I am sure that when I try another piece to "copy" that I will learn more and more about what not to do..and perhaps that's a great way to learn as well while honing in on your own personal technique!

I'm really enjoying the journey, and I hope this might be useful to you.
Have a great rest of the week everyone! ~ Shirley

20 comments:

  1. Really great exercise, Shirley! You rock! And yes, Holly Hobbie, is such a master. I can pore over those illustrations and never lose my amazement at her facility with watercolor!!

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    1. Thanks so much Melissa, glad this post was interesting to you! And yes, Holly is such an incredible inspiration..thanks for visiting!

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  2. Neat! I did the masters exercise that you're talking about and I posted one of them in my instagram a couple of months ago in case you were curious... I had chosen daVinci. And for our class it was not really copying, but rather to identify, analyze, and then test out the key characteristics of that person's style in a new drawing -- which is what you did. Also, I hadn't ever thought to try this with more contemporary artists and it looks like it was a really beneficial exercise! Nicely done!

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    1. I'll need to check it out!! I have to find your IG info..that'd be super to see. Wow, really interesting to hear of the exercise in your course..good to know, and thanks for sharing!

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    2. My instagram is http://www.instagram.com/adriprints and the photo was roughly 7 or 8 weeks ago while I was cleaning out my studio before our move. It's a charcoal drawing on paper, woman's face, three-quarter angle. :D

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  3. What a fantastic exercise Shirley and perfect piggy subject matter. You really studied hard and learnt here....fabulous! x

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    1. Jane! You do love your piggies! :) Thank you for your kind comment..it was a great experience. I'll need to do more! :) Hope you've been well!

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  4. What a fantastic exercise Shirley and perfect piggy subject matter. You really studied hard and learnt here....fabulous! x

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    1. Thanks so much Dow! I appreciate that!

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  6. Shirley - I'm NO perfectionist but I see YOUR style in your sketchings & paintings! I see where the shading helped but it's not wrong or right - just YOUR style. AND I love 'em!
    TFS
    Grandma Nancy in central IL

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    1. Aww...Grandma Nancy, thank you..you are SO generous! I appreciate that!

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  7. This is such an interesting post! I've often thought about doing the same thing but have yet to try it.

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    1. Aw, Laurie, so kind of you to visit..this was such an interesting thing for me to attempt..and I'm glad I tried it. Will be doing more. :) BTW, your inktobers are fabulous!

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  8. This is great, Shirley! Thanks for sharing your copying a master's work exercise. I've been wanting to do something similar and now I'm even more inspired to try it. You're awesome! ;)

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    1. Thanks so much Julissa! I'm happy to share the little exercise. You'll need to share your experience when you get a chance to try it..it was a lot of fun too. I need to do a lot more myself! :)

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  9. Super post! Super, super. I have a blank journal that I've been intending to use to copy the masters, as you did here. I've been procrastinating, though, because I'm dreading exposing my weaknesses. But you give me courage, girl. I love your Shirley-fied pig, by the way, even the first attempt. And those stray pencil lines? You know, when I was admiring your book, I actually took a mental note on how great I thought those pencil lines were. I love a bit of human element in pictures. It makes them more personal, if you know what I mean. Thanks for this, Shirley. It was very, very helpful! And if you don't mind, I may try to study you in my copy-the-masters journal. xoxo

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    1. Aw, Bella, thank you so much..and you are hilarious, I am no master! But that is awesome that you already have a journal to begin with! Good for you..and it's eye-opening for sure. I know what you mean, exposing my weaknesses..well, it's all a little painful but in the end food for thought and areas to work on for improvement. I have a ways to go, but this little task sure did help put my eye on where I need to pay attention. :) And thank you re: the stray pencil lines..I know what you mean! I am a huge Freya, and Renata fan..love those pencils. :) Mine are definitely messy, but I am going to keep them in too (at least some of them.). Thanks so much for your lovely comments and thoughts!!

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  10. Your style is very similar to Holly's. I'm very impressed! I would always "copy" her work and when I met her at a book signing some years back, she said she did the same thing while learning herself.
    She is my favorite artist and I have loved her since the 70s. I also remember reading someplace that she did use pen and ink between her layers of watercolor.Layers upon layers.Happy I stumbled upon your blog! Donna

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    1. Donna, many thanks for such a generous comment. I really appreciate your feedback and how very interesting re: Holly's process too..interesting re: the pen and ink between her layers of watercolor!! thanks again, I look forward to seeing your work!

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