I’ve read for years about how artists, to learn their craft, did master copies. I’ve poo-poohed it for the equal number of years. I couldn’t see much value in it. How could copying teach you anything? Art is about originality, I thought, and all good artists abandon the lessons taught to them. So why bother copying to begin with?
Boy was I wrong. Master copying is a real challenge. To get a decent replica takes careful study. In addition it takes cautious observation of how they render, to create an image with conservation of line. How did they create those magnificent eyes, strong shadows and edges? What did they focus detail on and what could be simply suggested? One master copy has taught me more than months of mere sketching. Master copying makes my sketching stronger.
I’ve been humbled.
I’ll still keep up the loose sketching of course since there is a place for both. However I am no longer a doubter on the value of copying the work of those who proceeded onto greatness. I will copy anything and everything that catches my eye to understand how it is done. My first two attempts do not look at all like the original. Yet the drawing has character in ways my old sketches do not. I will keep at it and hope that someday I create a sketch that is original and contains character.