On Copying an Artist’s Process

I’ve been striving to publish more blog posts lately and as a result, I am starting to find a common thread in the way I like to work. One of my go-to techniques for getting started is copying an artist’s process. I take an artist and try to figure out how they made the thing. Recent examples include James Nares and Yugo Hortal. In my sketchbook, I am continually trying to copy the great textile artist, Anni Albers.

But then the useless part of my brain chimes in with the notion that this may be “derivative.” Artists are supposed to be original, right? Well, no, not all the time. Copying the work of an artist you admire is a way of getting unstuck, and learning new techniques. Many years ago, I took a class at MICA called, “Drawing from the Masters.” We would meet at the Walters Art Gallery and choose works of art to sketch and copy. In retrospect, it was an interesting and useful class, but at age 20 I was a bit unmotivated. I recall choosing to copy Philip Guston’s Shoes for my homework, mainly because I waited till the last minute and wanted something easy to draw, but also because I wanted to make a statement about post-modern art, and how it didn’t seem to require graphic “skill:”

Frankenthaler on copying the artist’s process

Lately in my quest to understand and make abstract art, I’ve been gravitating toward the works of Helen Frankenthaler. I was so excited to find this quote by her:

In my love and pursuit of any of the Old Masters or Cubists, or Manet, or Monet, Miro, Gorky, or Pollock.” I would wonder how they made their paintings and want to understand them, and take it from there. Sometimes I’d use their works and make my kind of abstract response.

Well if Helen can do it, so can I! lol. Seriously, I felt vindicated to read her words, and it helped me to tell my inner critic to hit the pavement.

Copying Alex Katz

For my next post I think I will focus on Alex Katz. I have been working with iPad vector apps and exploring (and imitating) his style and it has been an enjoyable way to increase the scope of what I can make with these vector apps. Here is a sketch I did last summer, which I then turned into a print for a tote bag: