View Full Version : creating vs copier
01-03-2004, 10:34 AM
I've only been painting for about 2 years. I really like Jerry Yarnell's books, and I've mostly been painting projects in his books. I think they turn out really well, and I'm pleased with them and other people like them too.
When I try to create my own paintings, they don't turn out well at all. I get discouraged and go back to the books thinking, I just need to keep working on improving my painting skills. I've read a lot of books on art composition, and the art rules, and what it takes to make a good painting. Tony Couch is really good at explaining about the tools of good composition. But when it comes to applying what I've read, and learned by painting from Jerry Yarnell's books, my own paintings still come out disappointing. I can see it in my mind, but I can't get it on canvas. I prefer landscapes and I mostly use acrylics, I like the results of water color, but they drive me crazy because I'm always wanting to add white. I've been thinking about doing a mixed media of water color and acrylics on water color paper. If anyone has experience with that I would like to know how it turned out. I've taken a Bob Ross class, but again, it is painting someone else's painting, which does not help me to create my own. I paint for the pleasure of painting.
I guess what I'm asking is: What steps do you go through from start to finish on creating your paintings.
and is there anything that can help the transition from "copier of a Master Artist's works" to "creator of my own images?" I keep thinking that what I probably need to do is to just start painting my own ideas, but they turn out so bad when compared to the other way that I get discouraged.
sorry for all the rambles.
01-03-2004, 07:43 PM
Well I think this is a huge subject because creativity and art are so different for so many people. I personally want to regect a lot of the 'rules' I have learned as I feel, to some degree, they inhibit me. But I have been thru art school and have been painting for many years. Perhaps I want to break the rules because I am aware of them in the first place.
In any case I think using the materials, for any kind of project, copying or original, is great! Getting to know the materials is so important. When you know what they will do and not do it will allow you to feel more confident making your own artistic choices. Maybe bridge the gap between copying and original by taking something you like and changing it somehow. Make it more simple. Add or change a part a part of it. Or combine two images you like into one piece. Challenge yourself to come up with creative solutions that have guidelines instead of just expecting yourself to come up with stuff from nothing. It may not be your thing. Also you could try pleine air painting....painting a scence outdoors as you are looking at it.
I think its important to try and trust yourself. You are learning but you are also bringing with you a whole life's worth of experience. Take some risks!
01-03-2004, 09:11 PM
Thanks for your encouragement. I've been thinking along some of those lines myself. Paint a painting from a book, then take it and change it, rearrange it. Try to remember all the steps, so they become more automatic instead of reading and doing.
01-03-2004, 09:58 PM
I would HIGHLY recommend taking part in one of the projects here. It's motivating! Take what you've learned in those classes and paint from a photographed image. There's usually images to paint included in the project. Plus, you get to "meet" more people here, which is always fun! Post it, and ask for honest critiques. You'll also learn from the other participants...how did they take the same image you chose and paint it differently? Better? Worse?
After you've painted, oh, about a thousand of them....seriously! Do your own work. You learned something (even if you don't realize it!) from your "failures". Just keep at it!
One word of caution....every painting won't be better than the last one. It's not automatic. Sometimes I think I'm taking 2 steps back for every step forward, but actually, when I look back on the 14 months I've been seriously painting with colored pencils, overall, I am improving.
01-03-2004, 11:22 PM
Donad Smith asked:
I guess what I'm asking is: What steps do you go through from start to finish on creating your paintings.
Step One: Get an idea. (This happens at least once a day.)
Step Two: Choose a good idea, from the ideas. (Good ideas do not happen once a day.) Begin sketching. (This is going to start happening more often; right now it's about every other month...)
Step Three: Refine the sketch--using multiple references. (References are used only so long as they conform to the idea; the idea should not be compromised to conform to the references!) Then, transfer the sketch to illustration board (or, vice versa). If the sketch was begun on illustration board (which happens most of the time these days) then the sketch is refined as is...
Step Four: Begin painting. (Do not start--or end--this process too soon! Painting should take place only when the sketch is very nearly finished--and it should not end until the piece satisfies...)
Repeat Steps One thru Four as often as possible (right now, about once every other month, but this is not often enough...)
01-04-2004, 09:58 AM
Hello to all and I hope that you don't mind having another opinion on this very interesting topic. ;)
I think that the reason why some like to copy others work is two things. First, they are please that they produced a successful painting that is beautiful. Now, why is it beautiful. Both the master painter and the intermediate painter have both executed a beautiful painting. So, it's really not the skill that is involved as much as it seems to be that the original master has already figured out all of the problem areas and has established all the necessary components of a great picture. It was the original skill of the artists "interpretation" that is the key to a great painting. Therefore the artist that copies that has an easier job.
Next, I want to say that copying work of the masters is one of the best ways to learn how to paint. This is very important. However, when painting you need to have a critique of "why did this artist put that boat near the center", or "why did the light seem to emanate from the central focal area?". This helps to establish the why's for a reference when we need them for a future painting.
Now as to painting successfully. It is simply then that we use the information gleaned from the master paintings when we are painting our own designs. Paint from real life. But make it better. Unify the whole painting. Exaggerate what you see and intensify all the colors to the almost unbelievable.
I would suggest that you might first pick a complimentary color scheme and then use the proportions such as these that are suggested on a web site on the internet.
But colours also have relative strengths, for example Yellow is a strong colour and Violet is quite weak. If you put equal amounts of these two colours they would be unbalanced, there is a near numerical method of calculating this.
3 Yellow - Strong The numbers in this table show the relative strengths of the colours. For example, 3 squares of Yellow would be balanced by 9 squares of Violet. 4 squares of Orange would be balanced by 8 squares of blue.
6 Red / Green
9 Violet - Weak
Putting this information into practice, this percentages would be balanced if we had 6 squares of red to 8 squares of blue.
Red and Green are similar strengths (see the table above) so balance well. They are an energetic combination, as is blue on red, blue-green on orange-red.
Orange is twice as luminous as blue, so best balance is 1/3rd Orange to 2/3rds Blue. This gives a strong cool/warm relationship, also pushes the orange forward.
These are extremes of brightest and darkest, yellow should be 1/4 or less of the picture."
Just using the information above will be very helpful for anyone that is creating their own paintings. It will at the very least be successful with the color choices using that information. People will love the color of it. Additionally, chose the analogous of the larger percentage one to support the KEY color.
There are other little tricks to help gain success that can be found on the internet. All in all the best thing to do is copy and practice first, then start formulating what you like in other's work, then work from life and then use the above information. This is a pretty good recipe for success. :)
01-04-2004, 11:21 AM
Thanks to all of you for your constructive suggestions. I knew I wasn't the only one who struggled with this, and your ideas will help me to branch out and experiment.
Personally, I believe, if we learn from each painting, then there are NO failures. True the painting may not be something a person is truly happy with, but by learning from the process, from trying a new technique, or mastering a new technique, or critiquing the painting and learning what went wrong, then the painting will be a success, more the painting process than the painting itself.
Does that make since?
When I first started painting, I would have to do the same sky 4 or 5 times before I was happy with it. Then on to the middle and fore grounds. Sometimes I would screw them up as well, but I learned from each attempt. Now, I'm usually happy with the sky the first time around, and the blocking in of the middle and fore grounds. When I go to add details I start getting nervous, least I mess up what so far has been a beautiful start. One thing I LOVE about acrylics, is I can usually cover up a mistake, and repaint, or correct it and get it to come out with a happy ending.
PROJECT: I've been looking at the different projects as one person suggested. I've been thinking about suggesting my own.
Paint the same subject 4 times, preferably a landscape, but it could be anything. The idea is once every 3 months, do a painting and try to capture the changing of the seasons. You can change the lighting, the time of day, the season, maybe other small details, but the main subject and setting should be the same each time.
I've read about one Master that would paint the same subject more than 12 times before he was happy with the final painting. this would be a variation of that, by varying the seasons.
Thanks again for all your help,
01-04-2004, 12:07 PM
Many years ago, I was asked to copy three paintings from a calendar, for a pretty nice fee. My patron had contacted the publishers of this calendar, and had been told that no reproductions of these three images were available, and that the originals had already been sold.
I didn't feel too bad, then, about painting copies of other artists' paintings. I didn't sign my copies, though.
I have not copied other artists' work, before or since. I did learn some things in copying these paintings, but I would have learned at least as much--and probably a great deal more--working from my own ideas.
I have never recommended copying other artists' work, not even to my students. (Though, if they really want to--and if they have an understanding of the copyright issues involved--I'll let them.)
But I must disagree that copying is the best way to learn to paint.
01-06-2004, 07:10 AM
You made some really good points Keith, :)
However, one only needs to do an internet search on some Master Artists to see the real values of copying the master painters. Here is one website that states the value of learning this way:
Here is another example: “Around that period, Renoir is also granted permission to copy at the Louvre, where he feels inspired by the 18th century masters such as Boucher, Fragonard and Watteau.”
This is found on the website: http://www.scribbleskidsart.com/generic282.html
Therefore, I think that it is very good to learn from the masters by copying their work.
However, I certainly agree 100% with you Keith. If one copies, then one should give the source of the copy.
Also, I have always been the most proud of my own original artwork such as this one:
01-06-2004, 07:48 AM
Wow! what a beautiful painting. I'm not "into" painting flowers, but I can see that you are very good at doing that.
I think by copying a Master's art, one can learn to use their techniques faster than trying it on your own ideas. When you work with your own ideas, and you are a beginner, you are struggling with the composition, and the painting technique. While if you are copying, you already have the composition worked out for you so you can focus on the painting technique. I will say that copying isn't for everyone, but I think the vast majority of painters start out by copying someone else's art work. I don't have any facts to support this theroy, but I believe I do remember reading once that Leonardo's students started out by copying his art.
Just my two cents,
PS: Weren't we able to spell check before the server upgrade????
01-06-2004, 08:19 AM
As a beginner I learned a lot from copying others works or from other's photographs. The composition issues are already dealt with and it makes it "easier" to be pleased with the results painting from an already good picture. It's been 10 years now and I've discovered plein air painting last year and I must say this is what really gets me all excited now about painting and I learn much faster; and being in plein air has a way of "changing" my approach to painting.
Will be back outside this spring as soon as the weather permits.
01-06-2004, 11:13 PM
When you work with your own ideas, and you are a beginner, you are struggling with the composition, and the painting technique.
Uh, I've been working my with my own ideas for over twenty years now.
I would like to think I'm no longer a beginner...
01-06-2004, 11:57 PM
Thank you so very much for the kind words.
Also, Keith I really highly value your imaginative and creative work.
01-07-2004, 12:43 AM
What steps do you go through from start to finish on creating your paintings. and is there anything that can help the transition from "copier of a Master Artist's works" to "creator of my own images?"
Maybe you might benifit from a change. Perhaps you should start by getting a sketch book, taking it out into nature, and sketching what you see. Pencil, plein air, whichever... It would get you to do a couple things:
1. use the knowledge in your head
2. work out your own ideas
3. learn from your mistakes.
You're going to make mistakes, that is part of being an artist, but you keep going. You obviously know how to paint, you say you can copy his prosidiers over and over and get the exact right results. Now you really have no choice but to step out on your own and do it yourself.
You might try transitions. Look through his book, pick something, and do it but alter it. Like take a scene of a mountain and a lake and combine them. Or add a building, or change the way some of the items look. Make it a winter scene instead of summer... i'm guessing because I really don't know who Jerry Yarnell is.
Another thing... if water color fustrates you that much then you can do one of two things. You can give up on watercolor and go to a medium that lets you put that white in, or you can use acrylics over the water color and do something differant.
How do I do my paintings? I start with a big white canvas and sketch in mountains here, river here, lake here, trees here, then just start painting.
However I am learning to do much more complex paintings with figures and all, and that is taking a lot more time. It is far more fustrating then just painting the trees and mountains was, so I know what you're going through. It sometimes takes time to pic up a new skill.
01-07-2004, 08:03 AM
Sorry if you missunderstood, I wasn't implying that you were a beginner. I am, I've only been painting for a little over two years. Before that I was a mechanic, now I'm a mechanic turned computer geek. There is NOTHING creative involved with being a mechanic or a computer geek that fixes computers. Being creative is totally allien to me. I'm 46 and trying something new. Okay, so ART is my midlife crisis... :clap:
01-07-2004, 09:09 AM
Many artists copy paintings of others because of the reactions by people who view them and love the paintings. On the contrary, most of our first creative paintings are not successful and people say, "oh, that's nice, but I love the paintings over there that you did the best" as they point to one of the copied paintings.
Now, this is good and fine for the artist who does this for fun. But there will come a time that you will become very proficient at copying. Then it is time to add your own original paintings.
This will take a lot of guts because of the ocassional negative reaction of others. But keep at it. The more that you use your creativity, then the more that it will be honed.
Finally, this is good advice from Christopher Lowell: "Where there is 'fear', there is no creativity". That applies to all art or design.
Most painters seem to find that working from real life is preferrable. And it's easier. :)
01-07-2004, 10:53 PM
I want to thank everyone for their words of encouragement. It is difficult for me of break out of my routine, and to try something of my own. You're right, I must boldly go where I have not gone before. I must try new things, my own creations. A friend once told me "if you ever get in a rut, you should buy a new book, take a new class, but get OUT of that rut. A rut is a grave with both ends knocked out."
PS: http://www.YarnellArt.com is the link to Jerry Yarnell's website if you're interested in seeing some of his paintings, etc.
01-08-2004, 12:11 AM
I saw this demonstrated at an Art Guild Meeting - maybe it will help you see things differently. This visiting artist had a black & white xerox copy of of a persons face. This typical xerox copy had all the grays scales / values in it. She then applied oil pastels and changed this black and white copy into a beautiful full color portrait. I thought perhaps you can find or photograph something similiar to what you've learned to paint staying in "your comfort zone" and try different different color schemes pushing it to the limits. Its just a sheet of paper...how scarry can that be. Than when you come up with something that you like just recreate it on canvas. I must say I have not tried this method but it did look really cool. It just might be a step to get you to where you want to be. Creating with confidence and without fear.
When I was just starting out painting my own work, I would go to the local copy center and getting my own photographs blown up (this was before inkjet printers). Something about the color copy would almost break the colors apart and I was able to see my photograph differently - more painter friendly.
Something else that helped me. I believe its called the big book of watercolor. It is a huge book and it included the refence photo of each painting. The book gave you insight to what the artist's eye saw and how he interpated (sp?) it.
01-08-2004, 12:20 AM
I saw this demonstratied at an Art Guild Meeting - maybe it will help you see things differently. This visiting artist had a black & white xerox copy of of a persons face. This typical xerox copy had all the grays scales / values in it. She then applied oil pastels and changed this black and white copy into a beautiful full color portrait. I thought perhaps you can find or photograph something similiar to what you've learned to paint staying in "your confort zone" and try different color schemes pushing it to the limits. Its just a sheet of paper...how scarry can that be. Than when you come up with something that you like just recreate it on canvas. I must say I have not tried this method but it did look really cool. It just might be a step to get you where you want to be. Creating with confidence and without fear.
When I was just starting out painting my own work, I would go to the local copy center and getting my own photograph blown up (this was before inkjet printers). Something about the color copy would almost break the colors apart and I was able to see my photgraph differently - more painter friendly.
Something else that helped me. I believe its called the big book of watercolor. It is a huge book and it included the refence photo of each painting. The book gave you insight to what the artist's eye saw and how he interpatated (sp?) it.
01-08-2004, 01:24 PM
Donald, I apologize!
I just re-read what you wrote, and you said "when you work with your own ideas and you are a beginner'...
I read "when you work with your own ideas, you are a beginner", but that isn't what you said.
So sorry for my mis-reading...
01-08-2004, 01:27 PM
01-08-2004, 07:07 PM
Well I am glad that someone else is also having this problem! And I am glad that you started this thread as it has a lot of helpful suggestions. I too often feel that my own work is not as good as the master work that I copy. Making the switch to expressing my own creativity has been really hard for me because I often feel I haven't any. Art is my "midlife crisis" also after 9 more years than you of being uncreative. How does one wake up that sleeping section of ones life? Is it sleeping of is it not there at all? Can one become creative when it has not been a part of your life up to now? I am going to try Keiths suggestion (I think it was Keith) that you get one idea a day. I am going to try to write one idea a day down if I can find it. But this is a great thread and I hope it keeps going!
01-08-2004, 08:08 PM
Dear Precious Mazie,
One good way to get ideas is to talk with other artists every day.
Take seminars/workshops from artists and that will get the juices flowing. Paint what you love and it will flow. Start teaching if you don't already. Your students will provide you with lots of fodder.
I think that once the creative process gets running full steam that you might say, "Whoa Horsey". Because one painting leads to another and another...
However, in the meantime try this. It's what I tell my students to do.
When you see water droplets on the shower wall. Look at them...really look at them and then imagine how you would paint that. What colors would you use and what values. Then when you are watching tv then look at the peoples faces and figure out what color that you would use in the darkest shadows, the darkest hair color, the lightest highlights, etc. Study beautiful pictures and analyze them.
The more that you use that part of the brain then the more that you will become creative and see things that you would like to paint. :)
01-08-2004, 08:11 PM
Also, at first paint only from something that has side lighting. It's easier and provides a big range of values.
Check out the websites that I have found on CT&A. Go to:
They are really great websites and provide lots of food for thought.
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