Sunday, August 02, 2009

More on Copying

With the big push for ArtWalk II over, I plan to spend August in a more relaxed mode. I'd call it "on vacation" except that implies I don't plan to do anything except sit around enjoying the weather and taking dips in the lake. Yes, there will be lots of that, but I also want to spend time on odd projects in the studio, some experimenting with surface design techniques, and working on my drawing.

I started another copy of a Picasso work this morning - my back deck is shaded until about 11:00 and it is the perfect place to take my drawing materials and work uninterrupted while enjoying the all too brief summer weather. I think my eye is improving - my many sight checks against the grid showed that my lines were more often correct than not. As I did while copying The Absinthe Drinker , I had a little "aha" moment, this time as I worked on the nose. I swooped the angle a little too long, and suddenly I saw the beginnings of Picasso's later work where he essentially pulled apart body parts and reassembled them, often with front, side, and back perspectives all on the same plane. Facial features are often stretched. Now I see how that must have developed and the effectiveness of it. However, on this copy, I shortened the nose back up where it belonged.

Since directing you to Margaret Ramsey's post on Replicating Paintings I've come across some terminology that I think better expresses what it is we are doing when we reference other artists' work in our own. Picasso based so many of his paintings on classic master works, yet he was not just copying these ideas. In "Picasso and His Art," the author, Denis Thomas describes what Picasso did as borrowing images from earlier masters. There's no escaping the impact a piece of art can have on another artist, as well as that artist's desire to interpret the theme or image in his or her own unique way. How can artists escape working with universal themes, and why should they? It is in the interpretation that an artist moves from mere copying to original work, with inspiration sometimes quite obvious, and other time more obscure.

In relating a period in Picasso's career "when he found a new challenge in re-interpreting works by some of the painters he most admired," Thomas calls these works paraphrases. Ah - what a lovely term. We paraphrase what others say every day, and it is totally acceptable as long as we acknowledge that these thoughts are not our own, though we may wish they were. We can build on those original thoughts, adding our own experience to bolster or refute them. We can make them our own without having to repeat the original verbatim. We can take them further or in another direction altogether.

So what do you think? Does the addition of these two terms, borrowing and paraphrases, help bring any clarity to the discussion as posed by Margaret's post?

1 comment:

June said...

Interesting -- we are thinking about the same things. I just wrote down what I need to work on in the next couple of weeks, primarily related to copying Emily Carr, paraphrasing Emily Carr, playing with color (not like Emily Carr) and finally seeing if I go back out into the woods, I'll paint more powerfully -- channeling Emily Carr, but not painting like her. The copying teaches me a lot; I do it on old scraps of plywood so I can't use the paintings "by mistake".

And by the way, the color work might come back atcha -- one scrap that I did could be official, if it weren't on such a bad piece of improperly sized plywood. The problem is, I'll never be able to reproduce it --snort--