Friday, 25 May 2012

Paralysis by analysis... copying from other artists

This is an interesting one... well I think so anyway!!! I referred to this briefly in another blog

Painting holiday in Umbria

When I first started painting I really had no idea about what to do and found that a lot of tutors I went to used other artist's work for us to learn from and as a result I eventually became quite adept at copying what other artists had done

This is Pidgeon's Point after Tony Crouch

One from Milind Mulick..... a wonderful artist from India whose work I recommend you check out

Jonathan Wheeler a fabulous Scottish artist who a few years ago awakened my love of colour

You will see lots more work like this on my page on I Draw and Paint


Not work I am very proud of now but remember being quite pleased at the time as I was starting to get work that looked like proper watercolours........So what was the problem?

Exactly as it says in the title, all this copying and analysing other artists work paralysed my own creativity. Am not denying I learned a lot along the way, however it always felt like cheating and when I finally came to start trying on my own from photos I found myself not quite knowing where to start. I had become too reliant on the creativity of these other artists, using their work as a crutch so much so that I was unable to think for myself. Maybe I didn't do enough of the analysis bit!!!

So where did I go from there? I decided to try and get a bit more serious about things, approaching things with more intent and decided first to start concentrating on colour. This is what I loved seeing in others work so thought it would be a good thing for me to try to get to grips with....... am still learning about colour now but feel a lot more confident in my ability to put together an attractive painterly scheme which I find pleasing and I hope others do to. This is why I started doing my colour planets, just mixing and playing with colour, trying to find the combinations I liked and which for me at least, seemed to work, as many of you know I still do them now.

The significance of this painting is that it was my first moderately successful painting direct from a photograph which I took while we were on holiday...... lots not good with this (the trees to the right  for example) but I like the light and the effects on the stonework and was pretty chuffed with it at the time as it really did represent a breakthrough for me.

So what I have learned?

Well I never do copies from other artists work now, yes I will practice their techniques and will maybe do a step by step as Jean has in her book but would never present it as a finished piece of work, it would always be done as practice and for learning.

I will not be using other artists work when I start with my group in October, I will be trying to encourage them to use their imaginations to not just paint as they see...... to try different things, to experiment, copying definitely set me back and I don't want that to happen in the group. I will encourage them to look at other artists and yes use their work for techniques and ideas maybe, but then to put their own interpretation onto something so they will not become as paralysed as I did.

Finally the one artist I wouldn't mind copying is just impossible to do...... believe me, I've tried!!!!! However Jean Haines' techniques can be learned as I am finding and that is what I recommend you all do. Look and learn from other artists and yes try copies if you must, but don't do direct copies, always try and add something of yourself. A lot of people tell me they recognise my paintings now.... not quite sure what it is they recognise but it must mean there is something of me which is becoming more evident as I progress. I might yearn to paint like Jean but now yearn more to paint like me!!!!


  1. Well said Judith --- but analyzing another artist's work is a good thing, in respect to gaining inspiration.
    One other thing, I don't think we can paint until we learn to really SEE... shape, shade, shadow, color, composition etc. when we truly see -- we can create.
    Have a good day painting.

  2. Agree Susan and we have to learn to see through our own eyes not through someone else's.


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