Inspiration is a wonderful place to start when making art. But we often move too quickly from being inspired to innovation—making our own thing with (hopefully) our own, unique signature. I believe that imitation is a missing link in much of our artistic development. So, don’t just be inspired by someone’s work. Make it part of your work to learn how it is that they do what they do.
My wife studied studio art in college. And as part of her coursework, she spent a good chunk of time not only looking at but re-painting or re-sculpting pieces by master artists. On the wall near my desk is Amy’s study of Wayne Thiebaud’s “Black Shoes.” I find Thiebaud’s original piece particularly remarkable because the artist painted black shoes, with black laces on a black background—without using black paint. Instead, Thiebaud em- ploys varying shades of green and blue and even the occasional stroke of white. The execution of such a thing takes a considerable amount of skill and vision… the kind of skill and vision characteristic of a master artist like Thiebaud. By re-painting That piece (and others like it), Amy learned at least some of how that master achieved the effect. By imitating him, she learned a few of his skills and caught a glimpse of his vision.
In the practice of art, there are very few formulas. A Master Study, imitating the way of superior artists, is one practice I’ve found that consistently bears fruit.
This is an excerpt from my book Title Pending, which is available for pre-order now.
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