Since I’ve returned home from Italy, I’ve finally gotten into a routine that involves small self-improvements with bigger goals in mind. Namely, waking up at 5 am and painting for 30 minutes before work, which would inevitably result in gorgeous masterpieces by the end of the month with a total of 15 hours per work of art…
… I hope, anyway. 15 might not be enough. Depends on the artwork I guess.
Into my routine, I’m hoping to do a weekly blog post. Let’s see how long that lasts.
Why do I copy Old Master oil paintings? I’ve been asking myself this question for months.
1. It’s Fun
While I was in Italy, one of the things I did consistently make oil reproductions of portraits that I thought were beautiful. They may not have been my original pieces, but as I worked on them, I found that I had a dialogue with the art. I really enjoy doing it. It makes me happy. It’s like finding a new piece and falling in love and all I can think about is getting to know the artwork, and the artist, just a little bit better.
I learned new brushstrokes, found strange quirks and color choices I wouldn’t have picked up just from looking at it, I made mistakes, and learned from them for future pieces.
2. I Learn New Things from Old Geniuses
The artists long dead became my mentors, and they taught me more in four hours than I ever did four years of art classes.
I think as artists, we should never stop learning. Even if our style becomes something we’re truly proud of and we don’t think we could ever improve and better our art (and, in extension, ourselves), there’s always something new to learn.
In fact, a couple years ago, I heard about DC Artist, Jorge Jimenez. He regularly posted to his twitter feed art. He loved art, and just talked about art. He tweeted something to the extent of “Great Artists Never Stop Learning”. This almost moved me to tears. At the time, I was more obsessed with trying to create original pieces (not that I made a lot anyway, I just stood there being frustrated). I thought, “Yeah. Why not stop learning?” As a result, I just drew hands, drew more things from life, and tried not to stop learning.
I found that the best way to learn, to quote Newton, was to build on the shoulders of giants. So to speak.
3. My Copies Aren’t Really Copies.
Even so, I can’t copy these artists exactly, nor do I want to. I’m not saying that out of a “Sour Grapes” approach that I can’t get that good, but my hands and my brain have their own spark of creativity built from years of knowledge, emotions, and experiences that appear in the art, making them different.
For example, in my copies of Bouguereau’s young girls, I subconsciously made them look like my sisters rather than the girls he was trying to portray. It made me wonder if his paintings really looked as much like his models, or if there was something in his own mind that changed them.
4. Maybe a Sense of Spiteful Rebellion
Dear Post-Modernist loving professors,
Get. Off. My. Back!
Just let me enjoy historical art, for Christ’s sake! Take this checklist you’ve shoved down my throat of “Patriarchy, Male Gaze, Marxist Deconstructionisticnonesense” and shove it up your-”
5. It’s a Calming Meditation
Copying isn’t just copying. It’s really a puzzle that you try to solve.
You actually deconstruct the artworks.
When I paint, I deconstruct the people into basic shapes in order to achieve the correct proportions, I deconstruct the colors and try to figure out what other colors brought that particular shade and vibrancy. I deconstruct everything from the face, to the cloth, to flowers, the fur on a dog… It’s an amazing exercise for the brain using all parts of it and all senses, the mathematical part, the smell of the paint, the music affecting the overall mood of the project.
It’s one thing to look at, analyze, and appreciate a painting, but it’s a whole other thing to analyze it with your hands and your own artistic skill…
…and the difference between me and those PHILISTINES I just mentally screamed at into the uncaring void above in item 4, is that when I deconstruct a part of our culture, I aim to analyze it, learn from it, then build it back up again maybe just a little more new, yet maintaining respect and integrity for the original.
It took me too long to realize that THEY only want to destroy. Their “deconstruction” serves not to create, not to learn, but to DESTROY!
… On that note, I’m going to go back to painting. Maybe turn on some heavy metal. This ought to yield some interesting results.