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Old Masters Copies to Improve Your Art Quickly.
Doing old masters copies is, without a doubt, one of the quickest ways to get better at painting.
I've done quite a few of them over the years. It's a good way to test your skills. It also let's you focus on the painting process without having to translate a photograph or real life into a "painting."
Here are some examples. The first one is a quick sketch of a painting by John Singer Sargent. It's one of his impressionist landscape pieces.
And here is a quick copy that I did of a painting by Cezanne.
Both of those were done in less than two hours.
Those paintings were part of a video series I'm am working on for my complete art training course. So, I had to keep them quick. It's not easy doing a copy while explaining the process on video, but I think they turned out good enough.
I've done longer studies as well. Some were anywhere from 5 hours to 30 hours.
Here is a copy I did of a painting by N.C. Wyeth
That one took around 5 or 6 hours. I played with brushstrokes and color to have a little fun. I think it's important to always experiment with style even with old masters copies.
Here is one more. This one took a little longer. This is a copy of a painting by Benjamin West.
Okay, so how can you use this to improve your art right now?
Well, doing a master copy is a great way to learn about color, composition, and brushstrokes. Study what the old master did. Look carefully at how he put down his strokes. Does he use strong color or a muted palette?
Look at the composition. For example, in that last picture, look at all of the diagonals.
You can also look for ways the artist simplified the composition. For example, look at the way the group of figures on the right can be simplified into a triangular shape.
I'll be going into more detail with all of this later. I'll also be showing you one of the videos I did so you can see the process I used.
Don't worry about getting every little detail in there. Just get the "impression" of the painting. Try to get the placement of everything correct, but don't stress over getting it exact.
In fact, it won't be exact unless you use a canvas that is the exact same proportion as the painting you are copying. And since most old master paintings are done on custom canvas sizes, you probably won't feel like making a canvas with the exact same proportions.
That's okay though. I used a 9x12" canvas for those first two studies. Others I have done were 12x16", and that last one was 24x36". You can make little changes here and there to get the painting to fit without noticeably distorting it too much.
Try some old masters copies yourself. Pick artists that you like. Have fun with it. Let your own personal expression shine through. I sometimes play with color and make the brushstrokes more impressionistic because that is the style that I like. Of course, the paintings still look very close to the originals.
Also, a friend of mine has an article on his site about why you should copy famous paintings to improve your artwork. He has some good examples, so it is definitely worth a look!
Doing old masters copies is definitely one of the fastest ways to get better at painting. So, give it a shot and I know your paintings will start to get better.
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