I never studied art formally. What I did do was study the works of others to learn from them. Beginning in 2006, I studied to become a docent for Milwaukee Art Museum in Wisconsin. The training is a one-year long intense study of the Museum’s collection. Included in that training was the opportunity to study, draw and copy the works found in their collection. Throughout history, artists have copied the works of other artists to incorporate their techniques into their own original paintings. As a docent, I was able to access fabulous watercolors by Emile Nolde and after studying them, I painted copies. I also worked with a Milwaukee artist named Thea Kovac who gave me the opportunity to do my own version of Van Gogh’s sunflowers. I loved his but I did mine in pink.
The practice of really studying, sketching, immersing myself in another’s art helped me grow as an artist. Jerry Jordan, an artist who lives in Taos, New Mexico created works I wanted to copy. My good friends know Mr. Jordan and showed me his work. I fell in love with his rendering of irises and would have purchased theirs but they weren’t willing to let go of it, but they allowed me to hang it in my studio, to study. Mr.Jordan has graciously given me permission to use his images, along with his
best wishes to push forward with my painting. I loved his iris and would stand in front of it to see how he applied the paint, how he used the palette knife, how he used directional cues to direct the viewer’s eye. I examined his background choices. After weeks I decided to try my own version.
I learned so much that I decided to try another of his irises.
Again after careful study, I saw even more of his bold use of paint and his exciting movement to direct and frame the image. I noticed again his signature use of a small turquoise dot strategically placed. What a delightful device! I felt ready to try my own version.
As I mentioned earlier, the method of studying the works of others is tried and true. I recently read an article, “Copying Paintings of the Masters and Other Artists” by Lisa Marder. She explained that the benefits of copying the works of others is so powerful that the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has started a program called #Startdrawing to encourage really looking and studying recognizing that snapping a pic with a camera just isn’t the same. She explained that the museum even passes out materials to use on Drawing Saturdays.
So, I encourage you all to grab your sketch pads and pencils and begin the rewarding process of studying, copying and learning from others. Happy Drawing!