Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Workshop with Orly - Fake It 'Til You Make It

Orly Avineri hosted another one of her fantastic art journal workshops on Saturday and it was called "Fake It 'Til You Make It". The theme was to "copy" the work of an artist we admire to see what it's like to make art as they do. It's an exercise that is often employed in art classes and I remember doing such an exercise in my Life Drawing class. I chose to copy the work of Caravaggio at the time...

Though one of my very favorite artists is Joseph Cornell, I really didn't want to copy his work. So I chose to copy an artist whose work (and life!) I admire: Beatrix Potter.

I stumbled onto the movie about this amazing woman who was truly ahead of her time: an independent spirit who managed to create a life she loved around her art, make a living at it and she was an early environmentalist to boot! Learning about Beatrix Potter gave me a new-found admiration for her work in illustrating the children's books she wrote. Since I've had a yearning to work in watercolor more, I thought that copying Beatrix Potter would be a great way to practice some watercolor painting, not to mention practice my rusty drawing skills...

We were all instructed to bring a print-out of a work we wanted to copy and this is my favorite Beatrix Potter illustration - since I have long standing skills as a seamstress, I'm sure it's no surprise!

"The Tailor of Gloucester" by Beatrix Potter

We began to 'copy' our chosen works of art, or at least a section of it. Here is what my copy looked like at the end of our copying time:

Original on the left - my copy on the right...

Orly informed us that though we may be trying to replicate the work of a favorite artist, our own style of our own hand will always come through. My replication of the little mouse tailor was no exception - I have a fondness for small chubby furry creatures and my 'tailor' looks more like a hamster than a slender mouse!

For the other side of the journal spread I decided to abstract the spool of thread from the first page:

First spread in progress...

After lunch we were instructed to create artwork as WE usually create our artwork, but I had only had the color print outs of my chosen artwork, and my watercolors. I did not have much in the way to create mixed-media collage as I usually create it at home, but I did have some color prints I had considered working from - they were botanical prints, which I admire for the quality of the detail and the beauty of the color used in creating them...

Copy of a botanical print on the left side of the journal spread after some 'aging' and tearing

I had asked my dear boyfriend to make ONE copy of the Beatrix Potter illustration and of the two botanical prints I admired. However, my dear boyfriend just can't make a single print out of anything and he made a few copies of the botanical prints with notes on how he had altered them, in terms of changing the quality of the color. I found the notes he made on the back and incorporated the notes onto the tape I used to fix the copy to my journal page!*

Qualities of color can be HUE, SATURATION or BRIGHTNESS

Orly encouraged us to return to our first journal page and see if we could alter it in any way. I was reluctant to do this as I was rather proud of the results in copying the work of Beatrix Potter and I could see how my own style of my hand in my art came through. But after viewing workshop participant Brian change his copied artwork, I figured out a way to start altering my artwork, and with the help of another workshop participant who loaned me her stencils and stamp pads, this is how my first page looked by the end of the day:

First journal spread with stencils and a scrap of paper I found among my supplies- more will be added soon...

Though I was rather proud of my artwork copy, many of us agreed that it's not easy to replicate the hand of an artist, nor is it very freeing. The idea behind copying the works of great artists is one that is employed in art classes and it's for the purpose of teaching students how such work was created. I certainly learned that I have a lot of practice ahead of me if I wish to create watercolor illustrations because it became very clear to me that Beatrix Potter had been practicing her skills for many, many years. It was interesting to copy her work, but it definitely felt like a class exercise, or worse, like HOMEWORK, not very joyful, fun or freeing.

The thing to remember is that copying is an EXERCISE only and not a technique to hold on to, otherwise, you can not figure out your own style of creating...

***   ***   ***

As a dancer, it finally dawned on me one day that dance is a LANGUAGE and Art is a language too. There are many techniques in art, just as there are many steps in dance and there are many STYLES of art as there are styles of dance. You string the individual steps together to create a combination or dance routine  and in art you string together different techniques to create an artwork. I would break it down like this:

For LANGUAGE: word + word + word = sentence
For DANCE: step + step + step = dance routine
For ART: technique + technique + technique = art work

It takes a great deal of practice to begin to create effortlessly, just it took many, MANY hours of practice for Fred Astaire to make his dancing look effortless. But I can tell you, whether it's dancing or art-making, that the practice is worth every minute!

I'm still in the middle of another workshop hosted my life coach Pete and his coaching partner Wendie and this is the week where deep work is done. I may be a little quiet here for the next two weeks, but I'll be back to share what new things I learn as I continue on my journey of self discovery, so stay tuned!


* - I guess it's a good thing he made more than one print out or I might have really been stuck for the second journal spread!

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