Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why We Copy

Copy of Table of Contents Illustration (partial) from
"The Story of King Arthur and His Knights" by Howard Pyle
Back in graduate school, I came into conflict with myself over the concept of copying from the Masters. There was a great feeling in the late 1980’s that “copying” was not cool. Of course, in hindsight, seriously listening to the rantings of other early twenty-somethings seems incredibly silly. Students of Art have been learning from works of those who have gone before them from time immemorial. I’m still not certain what the movement against it was in the late ‘80’s. Something societal, I’m sure. But whatever it was became so deeply ingrained in me that as it’s taken a very long time to feel OK about copying to learn. Certainly, I would never copy anything in order to sell it. But there are invaluable lessons to be learned from master artists. Through copying, one can learn much about what they discovered in their artistic journeys.

Yesterday, I wrote about my need to have some of my favorite illustrators close at hand in order to study their works. As I am currently in a phase of further learning with pen & ink, studying the works of Golden Age Illustrators from the late 19th and early 20th centuries seems very appropriate. Before color reproductions were cheap and easy to reproduce for publications, people relied of high quality pen & ink artwork to tell their stories. Howard Pyle is one of my favorite Illustrators from this time period. His pen and ink technique is exquisite and his drawings fanciful but also incredibly accurate. Pyle’s “The Story of King Arthur and His Knights,” is one of my favorites. Although my copy is a bit dog-eared and charcoal-smudged, I wouldn’t part with it for the world. Both the story and the illustrations are wonderful.

P.S. For any that might be interested, my drawing was done with a Noodler's Flex pen and Noodler's Lexington Grey ink on a Bee Paper "Pen Sketcher's" pad.

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