Day 24 of 31 Days of Art:
Be Inspired by Dead People

Milton Avery, 1944, Autumn

Dead artists don't send cease and desist letters.  So if you want to copy another's work to learn from, choose a dead artist.  Preferably someone who lived a hundred years or more ago.  Five hundred is even better.  Hello, Pieter Bruegel the Elder!
Copying paintings is a way to learn. This is a time honored tradtiion.  At art museums, students copy famous paintings hanging on the wall.  The National Gallery of Art even has a "copyist" program.  If you have a chance to see paintings in person, take it!   Seeing paintings live shows you texture and brush-stroke patterns you won't see in a photo.   The image above is a good example.  I would love to look at this painting from an angle.  Some museums will allow you to take photos of master works, and this can be a great opportunity to study the details of a painting later.  Take pictures from unusual angles that will show shadows of brushstrokes.

Milton Avery, 1944, Two Figures at Desk

What can we learn by copying someone else's work?  Depending on the artist you choose, you can learn about

color choices
subject matter

We have a lot of images of master works at our fingertips.   Seeing a photograph is not the same as seeing an actual painting, but we can still learn a lot about composition and color, if not brush stroke.   So choose an artist (I'm choosing Milton Avery) and copy one of their works. Type in the artist's name in the search bar, and then click on images in the search result.    Choose a painting and copy it.  Then try to make an original painting in the style of that artist.   It's like getting dressed up for the prom, maybe you won't ever wear the dress again, but it's fun to wear something different.  Then you can hang that "style" back in the closet after your learning session.

Milton Avery, 1954, Bicycle Rider by the Loire

What do we do with the copied painting?  Ah, ethics.   You can display it with  a clear label that says "after Milton Avery" or whatever your chosen artist's name is.   Sign your name and then clearly state on the back it's "after" which means inspired by that artist.   I wouldn't feel good about selling a painting that's a copy of someone else's work, dead or alive.
If you want to see more images of Milton Avery's work, visit It's About Time.  He hasn't been dead a hundred years, but I have no plans to sell any of my copied paintings.  They're purely about learning.


JDConwell said...

I want to paint William Carlos Williams' poem about the chicken and the red wheelbarrow.

Dixie Redmond said...

Ah, Paint a Poem! What a great idea! :-)

Jo James said...

Great post!
I've done several drawings of artists' paintings. Really makes you aware of all the little (and big) decisions that they made.

Dixie Redmond said...

Thanks, Jo. Yes, you're right. For instance, in the top painting of Milton Avery, he had to consciously choose those vivid/magenta/cerise shapes. I've been riding around New England and everywhere I look reminds me of this painting right now.

"Do not let what you cannot do
keep you from doing what you can do."

John Wooden