There is a nice exercise that I do as a warmup before starting painting sessions, and I would like to share it with you. I basically take a painting or drawing I like and admire and I copy it, giving me a maximum of 20 minutes for copy. If I’m fast enough I can do two in 30-40 minutes and it’s amazing me everytime how much this simple exercise helps me getting the feeling with the tablet, the software, values comparing and more!
To make things easier and faster I use to choose the pieces to copy in advance, I bring them in Gimp and there I double the width of the canvas, so that I have a free space on the right of the image where I can paint the copy. Here is a sample to explain what I mean:
(that beautiful painting is not signed and I forgot who did it; I found it surfing the web and if you happen to know the name of the artist please tell me, so I can give him/her the due credit)
That particular copy took ~20 minutes in MyPaint and even if it’s full of not accurate parts it still was a very useful exercise. I used MyPaint because it starts instantly and has features for rotating and flipping the canvas. You can use the software you prefer though, even better if it’s the one you’ll use for work. If you want to give this method a try I have some advices for you:
- prepare a lot of images in advance, so that you can start you exercises without losing time
- set a time limit and respect it: if you’re not done with the painting when you reach the limit, leave it as it is. If you really care about that painting, try doing better the next time. That’s because…
- …the goal of the exercise is to train your eye to deal with values, strokes quality, brushes choice, palette issues and all the other stuff that artist put into his/her painting. Your goal is not to create a faithful copy of someone else’s artwork!
- don’t bother showing your copies to the world and don’t feel you have to prove anything to anyone: this is a personal research that you are doing for improving yourself and/or warming up your skills before starting working
- if a particular painting is making you have questions, try to contact the author and ask: industry professionals are usually very busy but they could answer you and give you some answers
- keep flipping and rotating the canvas to spot issues, it’ll vastly improve your chances of understanding what’s going around
A last note about copies:a lot of artists are copying famous ones as a way for becoming poupular and creating something interesting fast. This method has nothing to do with that lame bahavior: this is all about learning and warming up, and what you create is only for yourself.
That’s all! I hope this tip was useful for you as much as it is for me.