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Learning a Master’s Drawing Secrets–Texture, Color … Genius!
It’s funny when you think about it, but the art world is built on copying. Unlike plagiarism in journalism or literature, however, copying master drawings is something many artists, for centuries, have incorporated into their studies.
Why? Because it is an excellent way to closely study and evaluate incredible artwork. It was a widespread method during the 16th and 17th centuries. And copying allows artists then and now to demonstrate their growing ability to draw and render, or to create an homage honoring a revered artistic master of drawing, painting or both.
When you think about it, getting drawing lessons from the masters in this way is a bit of a luxury. All the works are laid out in front of you and all you have to do is observe.
There is no pressing timetable or hoops to jump through. You can focus on discovering the drawing techniques they used and work through their process as a drawing exercise to hone your own skills.
Get Your Copying On, Artists!
If you are interested in creating a line drawing or contour drawing after a master, it will be good to remember a few things.
Make a copy of a drawing in the style you like.
Do not copy a drawing from Rembrandt if Schiele is more your style. Go with what you are drawn to aesthetically. After all, you’re going to be giving the image a lot of attention.
You’ll also want to get a good quality image to work from or work from life if at all possible (museums far and wide love having living artists in their galleries, just be sure to coordinate with the staff before you go as there are different protocols depending on where your masterpiece resides). Sometimes that can be from an exhibition catalog, or you might be able to find a poster-size reproduction of the work. Just look for good tones and a clear representation of detail and gradation.
You may also want to tone your paper in the style of the Old Masters. They rarely had pure white paper, so go with a surface that has a bit of neutral color on it or apply a wash to give it a bit of color.
Copying for the Love of Art
Copying master drawings is an enjoyable and rewarding way to improve drawing skills as one of our favorite instructors knows. Desmond O’Hagan’s foray into master copying started with a love for Edgar Degas’ pastels. He wanted to deeper, richer understand how his favorite artist actually painted. That led to entire series on the subject including Desmond’s Decoding Degas Drawing Collection, perfect for lovers of the Impressionist master.
If, after looking through all of resources from Desmond, you want to recreate a master drawing, don’t question it. That artistic urge is your creativity calling! Just make sure to make your own riff on the work and then get copying!