Saturday, 30 May 2015

Experimenting and Learning

I think most artists continue to experiment and learn throughout their careers. Whether one is a professional with long years of work behind them or a relative beginner, it is important to work at keeping your art fresh.

I am lucky in that way because my art students often ask to paint something that I have never painted before so while I am teaching, I am also learning. A few years ago, Teresa wanted to paint an Elk - antlers and all. She had her own photo to work from and I grabbed one off the internet. I had painted deer before but always in the distance so little detail was needed. For this picture, although I had no interest in photo-realism, I needed to put fuzz on the antlers and have a pretty decent looking face.
Big Boy 10 x 14 acrylic on paper
Recently my newest student, Jean, wanted to try a butterfly. She looked through my meagre butterfly reference material and chose a picture that left me somewhat aghast. "How was I going to teach her this? She has had about 12 lessons and this is pretty complicated"
This is a photo of a photo in an old Northlight Magazine, so the image isn't great BUT this is what Jean wanted to paint! It is "Peacock Sunning on Stones" by Sarais B. Crawshaw.

So I prepared a couple of watercolor canvases and some masking tape masques for the butterfly. We transferred the image on to the paper and applied the masques then we set about trying different ways to paint the rocks. Of course, we used a separate piece of paper: we tried salt, sea sponges, splatter with both screen and fingers - nothing seemed to be working. Finally I decided to try dry brush and it seem to work the best.

Before we could progress to our prepared canvases, Jean decided that she really didn't want to do this picture after all and she would look for another reference.

However my interest was caught! Could I reproduce this picture? I don't normally copy another artist's work but this presented a real challenge and I couldn't resist.
Peacock Butterfly 8 x 10 watercolor
I am pretty happy with the way this painting turned out and I am glad I did it because I learned a lot.

Now comes the thorny question - can I sell this painting? I am not likely to compete in the same market as Sarais B. Crawshaw but even if I credit her on the back of my painting it doesn't strike me as ethical. This question has come up a number of times in the Art Club I belong to but the answers have always been split. What is your take on this question?