A thing about learning by copying


It’s usually a very good idea to analyze art. I often do that myself for the purpose of learning, but I never copy it. I’ve never done that, even when I was a beginner. Of course you can learn much about the color, perspective and composition from watching other people’s work, but copying it is tricky and you really have to know what you’re doing before you try it. Here’s why.

Nature isn’t flat

While copying a piece of art, you’re only drawing or painting from something that’s already flat (except when you’re copying a sculpture, which I know very little about, so I’m not going to express here any opinion on it).

When copying something that’s already drawn, you don’t get to fully understand the details or why the lighting is as it is. And if you want to be really good at what you do, you must learn and understand all these things by yourself and by figuring out your own work. Also, that’s why drawing from a photo when you’re learning isn’t the best idea too. Pictures drawn from photos or other drawings usually seem flat and lifeless.

Learn to think

Any form of creativity is a process, a series of decisions you are making all the time and when copying someone’s work, you don’t think for yourself, you’re following someone else’s thought. As an artist, you must learn to think for yourself.

The objectivity

The most dreadful trap in all this is that your favourite artist doesn’t necessarily have to be a good artist, especially in places like deviantArt. You have no idea how easily you can get all the bad drawing habits from someone whom you like, but they might not be as good as you think they are. And it’s very difficult to get rid of those habits afterwards. So be careful.

Don’t get me wrong, I sometimes take photos instead of making quick sketches and then paint stuff based on them, but my skill is already pretty strong and my goal isn’t exactly to learn drawing from nature, because I can already do that.

When you’re getting the skill, it’s always better to draw from nature. Some tips what to draw to get the skill, when you’re learning:

Catch the moment

Go to a ZOO, draw a crocodile or a tortoise. They’re fairly complicated and they don’t move a lot. This can be good and bad at the same time, because you need enough time to make the right sketch, and sometimes it’s bad to spend too much time on one piece. It’s very easy to turn a live, fresh sketch into something overdone and boring. I find it very educating to draw birds, also at the ZOO. They are moving all the time, but there’s enough of them in a cage to catch a certain pose for just enough time to put it on paper. Don’t worry if the picture isn’t very exact. With this kind of sketch, the most important thing is to catch the basic shape, movement, the character of an animal, the single moment.

Think in composition terms

Look around your town. It’s full of challenging composition sets. Don’t just draw architecture lines, put some life into it.

Study to perfection

Set yourself a still life, use items of various forms and texture. This is a perfect subject to study lighting, composition, colour and detail. Even better if you have access to a live human model, it’s challenging, educating, and if you can properly draw and paint a human body, you’ll be able to draw and paint anything.

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