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.
Through the other articles in this series I have described the two main approaches to modeling as well as presented some of the history behind them. This article focuses on a single artist who managed to model using both approaches, each during two different stages of his career: the two faces, or periods, of Velazquez.
The previous articles on modeling dealt with the practicalities — how one goes about modeling via form over value, and value over form. This article explains the history and reasonings behind those two approaches. I refer to their adherents as the artists of the mind and the artists of the eye.
Most Sight-Size trained artists model using the value over form approach. Modeling in this way helps the artist maintain the big-look (which is representing the image as a whole ensemble), as well as the unity of effect. This approach naturally reduces the chance of falling into piecemeal seeing.
Modeling is the act of turning form through value or line, a process which is integral to representing your impression of the scene as well as the illusion of form. Although there is some crossover, there are essentially two approaches to modeling: form over value, and value over form. As its name implies, form over value modeling tends to prioritize the representation of form over that of value. The opposite is true for value over form modeling.
In the previous articles I have explained that seeing impressionistically is contingent upon seeing contextually. For that I dealt primarily with seeing shape, value, and edge. Finally, some might say, we come to seeing color impressionistically.
Context is everything to an impressionist painter. In fact, examples are everywhere if you know how to perceive them. Our perception of how light or dark, how warm or cool, and how sharp or soft something appears is impossible to define without reference to what surrounds the target — its context. Of all the ways used to describe how an impressionist sees, contextual seeing is perhaps the most descriptive.
In simple terms, the impressionist draws or paints what he or she sees – but quite often not what he is directly looking at. First and foremost the impressionist is striving for something the 17th century art critic Roger de Piles called the unity of effect.
At their most basic levels, drawing and painting are initially all about creating the correct shape in the correct place. On their own, neither a shape nor placement suffice. To be completely accurate, both must be correct.
The terms Impressionism and Impressionists normally refer to an art movement from the late nineteenth century, as well as to its adherents. Defining the qualities which make Impressionism impressionistic is a bit more difficult.