As an artist you should never really stop studying and learning. Doing master copy was among the first things I attempted when I was learning- and I’ve continued to do them, every few years or so. Copying a picture gives you an entirely different perspective, a view into the process that you just can’t get otherwise. It continues to be a tool I use in the development of pictorial concepts, looking for new color and technical ideas.
One thing I would mention is the importance of doing master copies in person- copying from a reproduction simply doesn’t cut it. Particularly in oils, you’ll need to see yours next to the real thing so you can see the technique as well as the image. Plus, reproductions really aren’t to be trusted when it comes to color. You don’t necessarily need to finish the thing, or even copy it in the same medium, but spending a period of time analyzing a picture like that is invaluable.
Over the years some of the things I’ve attempted copying: a Rembrandt (failed miserably, way above my pay grade at the time), an Edmund Tarbell, a silverpoint of Raffaello Sanzio’s around the time I was getting into metalpoint, a portrait of Antonio Mancini’s (that one came out great, hangs in my dining room), an Edgar Payne classic high sierra’s view… and this week, an interesting project. I spent the past few days with Stapleton Kearns, studying a seascape by Frederick Judd Waugh. I made a timelapse of the whole process, see video below.
This is my first attempt at making a video of any kind, so excuse the excessive jitteriness- but it does convey the frantic nature of trying to copy a picture this size, full of impastos and glazes in just three days.
Since the video is a bit shaky, here are a few snapshots of the copy’s process along the way:
I’d love to put some more time into the copy and really ‘perfect’ it. Though I have a lot done here, there is much to be gained by continuing to bring something ever closer to the subject. Maybe I’ll get some time to do that later this year- in the meantime I can study my copy in the studio.