Sunday, January 6, 2013

Learning and copying -- what's the difference ?

 New Year on my kitchen counter
iPad drawing
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
We are all trying to be original out here in the
land of art I believe.  But because we have eyes
and infinite photo capture in our artists' brains,
we consume other people's methods and styles
without thinking.  Plus we deliberately pick
up certain techniques because that's what artists
have done since the first person scratched an
image in the sand with a stick, or on the wall
with a piece of stone.  In the Renaissance
and in many art classes around the world, copying
the work of another artist was and is understood
as an excellent method for learning.

In a classroom that's fine if the teacher wants
you to copy.  Otherwise picking up techniques
is one thing, copying a specific work of art, and
claiming it's your own is another.  I've had two
friends who are wonderful artists complain
about being copied lately.  Perhaps it was unconscious,
and perhaps not.  Either way there's an easy way
around the problem.  Use your own subject matter.
that way you can't do someone else's work.

My drawing today is of the things on my kitchen
counter.  The most famous iPad artist is David
Hockney, whose work I love.  But if I draw with
my finger on my iPad in my own kitchen, I am
learning, not copying.  There's the difference.
I thank my friend Carol Berry, for talking about
volume.  It's more of a challenge thinking about
volume in an iPad drawing than a painting, or
drawing. But I thank Carol for whatever volume
emerges here.

Have a-getting-ready-for-week-2-2013 day         


Carol said...

Ok, so now I had better post about what I am copying as an art student! I have decided it is never too late to renew my vision, I am back in art school!

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Carol,

So glad you noticed I'd mentioned you. Of course we copy as art students. So many teachers paint, and then ask us to copy. It's different wouldn't you agree?

You so rock. Happy New Year.

XO Barbara

Melinda said...

Nice post, Barbara.

I think that it's pretty easy to know when you're copying someone else's work. You can feel it in your gut.

As a student--copy away! It's a great way to learn technique and decide what feels right and what doesn't.

And when bloggin a copied work, it's really easy to name the artist you copy, and then, problem solv-ed.

In a way, art is all about being influenced and using what other artists discover, but calling a copy an original is just low.

Thank you for writing about it.

Your work is wonderful! I really do enjoy your iPad work. Major fun.


cohen labelle said...

The only thing I can say about copying or not copying or working from direct observation - is thank god for erasers. I'd be lost without one.
Without digging too deeply into art history we know that Rubens copied Michaelangelo and bought the paintings of Carravagio. Wish I could afford a painting or two by Carravagio! Failing that, Titian would do.
Come to think of it - how about a Muir, how about an Esparza - for starters.
Even if you were to copy til the cows come home, Barbara, I'm sure I'd know it was you. I really love the color in this painting!


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Melinda,

Glad you like the iPad drawings. I agree copying someone's work and calling it your own is low. Nice word that says it all. I am inspired by you and everyone on my blog list and beyond. But I don't want to paint like anyone else. Can't in fact.

XO Barbara

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Marcia,

Well said. Direct observation is a good bet. I know that Carravagios may be out of your league, and Titian too -- plus I believe the Titians tend to be large. Esparza is getting pretty famous and may be too expensive, but I'm pretty sure there are Muirs you can afford. Come by sometime and I can show you what I mean. Meantime I do believe it's a good idea for all of us to stay original. That's
creativity -- right?



Nicki said...

Great post Barbara. I only use my own photos even though I have seen many that I think are beautiful and could make great paintings. The thing is I always feel distant from someone else's photo whereas with mine, I take them with the painting already in mind. Also I feel the intimacy of having been on sight and experiencing the subject first hand.

I saw a copy of a Tom Thomson painting in someone's Daily Paintworks gallery that they tried to pass off as their own work. It infuriated me, but someone set her straight and she then made an attribution to it.

Another way to avoid copying is to paint en plein air! :)

I love your vibrant, happy, joyful, ORIGINAL work!

XO Nicki

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Nicki,

I do paint portraits based on someone else's photos when a client gives me the photos for reference. But I know exactly what you mean. It is more immediate, and visually inside me if the photos are mine in the first place. Then the emotional connection to the image is in-built, and as you say the painting is in your mind when you take the shot. I love your recent work. Powerful, and awesome as always.

XO Barbara

Portrait Artist

My photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I paint and draw on commission and for shows. To commission a portrait, or purchase one of my paintings please contact me at:
A major highlight in my career? Drawing Oprah Winfrey live via Skype for her show "Where in the Skype are you? Galleries: Studio Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada. The Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York City. Gallery at the Porch Door, Kingston, Canada. Your positive comments on this blog mean the world to me. I'd love to hear from you!