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?


  1. I would say no. I would feel funny about it.But Val this is an amazing piece! I know it is all about the butterfly, and yours is wonderful. I just find my self in awe of your rocks! Beautiful!

  2. Thanks Sheila. The rocks were a real challenge and I am very please with the way they turned out. About selling copies - I have done in the past as in many workshops the participants have to paint whatever the instructor paints but I Have finally decided that I will paint my own picture using the instructor's techniques and that takes care of selling copies and being uncomfortable. Have a great Sunday.

  3. Well done, Val. My vote on the sales issue is to ask the artist directly, stating that you're delighted to be using her name in the title: i.e. 'Butterfly' after "Peacock Sunning on Stones" by Sarais B. Crawshaw. Artists through the ages have copied each other using this permissive phrase. I've also found that established artists are delighted to be approached this way.

  4. Thanks Win and thanks for the advice too. I will try to get in touch with the artist. I spent quite a bit of time painting the picture and I am proud of the result. It would be nice to be able to sell it with a clear conscience.

  5. Val, very.much enjoyed reading this post. Your pictures both came out so well. However, I think you did an incredible job with th butterfly.
    Ah, a thorny issue about selling the picture. Yes you had another work to go by, but that doesn't guarantee success. It is your technique and skill,that got the picture painted. I have held off on pictures that weren't my own reference photo, but I,have read where some sell and credit the original with "in the style of". Seems that is most of your comments inclination. Hope you get a positive from the artist and go for it. It is beautiful work.

  6. Thanks Nelvia. I hope the artist gives permission too. I think I will still feel like it is not my work although it was my skill - if that makes any sense. Have a great week.

  7. I was lucky to get permission from Sarais B. Crawshaw to put my version of her painting FOR SALE as long as she is credited in the TITLE. Thanks Win for the suggestion - now I can feel comfortable about selling the painting.

  8. Great paintings!
    Fab take on the colors of SOC week one!
    Great take on the colors!

  9. thank you Susi for your kind words