The statement that “good artists copy; great artists steal” has been attributed to many. History is replete with examples of both sides, and not just in art but also in other fields. Is the assertion true? The answer, I think, depends upon both the reason for the copy and how well it was done. Let’s avoid the controversy and look at some old masters copying older masters.
All the Articles on the Site
Here is an ever-growing collection of articles related to the Sight-Size approach, as well as some digressions. Many of these articles expand on the lessons I teach my own students. Others are of more historical interest. And yes, many contain promotional content to my free guide, books, and online courses. You can learn how to see accurately so that you can successfully draw what you see. Therefore, all of the content I produce is centered on helping you do that.
Scattered throughout a book of letters (written to Richard Whitney from R. H. Ives Gammell) is perhaps the best advice ever given to an aspiring painter: “Do your memory work for 10 to 15 minutes daily.” In fact, Mr. Gammell instructs Richard to bring some memory drawings with him to their very first meeting.
The fundamental element of Sight-Size is accurate comparison. Without it, your guesses are akin to guesses in arithmetic. One common way is using a plumb line. But what happens when you can no longer clearly see the line? What happens to Sight-Size with older eyes?
Memory training must be integrated into a mature painter’s working method if his or her talent is to be truly fulfilled. I myself, when doing a portrait commission, will spend up to three times as much time on memory work as I do on direct observation. Much of the weakness of contemporary realism done from nature comes not only from poorly trained eyes, but also from poorly trained memory.
Did you know that every time you look from your subject to your drawing or painting you have to rely entirely on your visual memory? And, although this applies to all who work from visual sources, it is especially true for those who work in Sight-Size. This article takes a look at visual memory and what some artists have had to say about it.
From the time I began teaching back in the late 80s I have made the case that in order to learn how to draw what you see you need to learn how to see. The best way to do both is in Sight-Size. From today you can do it in your own home through my first online course: Sight-Size Cast Drawing, on my new site: Atelier Rousar | online.
Beginning students must learn to see nature simply, unencumbered by all the little piecemeal details. Under proper lighting many casts can provide this. But Michelangelo’s nose of David gives us simplicity, regardless of lighting. Due to that, the first thing I ask my students to do is to buy a nose.
Online art students face numerous challenges and the most daunting is providing their instructor with photographs of their setup to be used for a critique. This is all the more critical when the artwork is being done in Sight-Size. Succeeding with the task is not difficult, but it does take some preparation and attention.
The primary route to learning to see and draw is through cast drawing. That is not only tradition, it is also effective. But for some people, due to location or finances, acquiring a cast can be difficult. If that describes your situation, don’t fret. You do have alternatives.
Responding to an artist’s claim of being self-taught, a friend of mine once replied that they couldn’t have just “sprung from the earth.” She meant that, one way or another, that artist had to have had training because representational art is a skill-based endeavor. Of course there’s training, and then there is training! And that begs the question, can you learn to see and draw on your own?