It is a very traditional way to learn how to paint. Find painting you like and try to copy it. For me a more interesting variation of this is transcription. You take an element from the painting, a figure, a subject a theme and use it to compose your own work. It is this later element that appeals to me more.
There are two main benefits. It forces you to look closely at a painting by someone else. You learn allot by doing this, technqiues ideas, use of colour etc. It also fires the imagination. I live in London so for this excercise I like to choose paintings I can go and see in person. You often see much more, and suprisingly so, than is shown in a postcard or picture from the interent. The most suprising change is often the scale of the original and the colours. The colours are invariably different from those in a photo.
Below are three transcriptions I have done. The first is a version of Lucas Cranach the Elder's Venus and Cupid. The original is in the National Gallery.
this was one of the first paintings I did, back when I started painting. It is difficult to see but in the back right of the original is a small house. My first idea was a rendition of the house with the various characters in various windows. My second idea and the one I went with was to expand on the malevolant looking deer in the left of the picture. They intrigued me. So I went with them. I tried to incoporate the trees and bushes that surrounds them. The two main characters I rendered into tree form for the back ground and I kept in the distance, thehouse and its reflection. The apples from the originals I put on the ground and various bees buzz around the place. I was pleased with the result. My deer don't carry the threat of the original. Indeed they appear to be laughing.
The next transcription I did was of Degas Spartans Excercising. Again the original can be seen in the National Gallery.
My version can also be seen in the Maxi mix page. The original is vast and also much more light in colour than the photo above would suggest. I was taken by the feeling of movement, and also the atmosphere of implied threat. I decided to expand on thi in two ways.
The first was to make it so there were only two characters, the girl and the boy, and the various poses (which I reduced by one in each case) was them moving. Next I decided to make the threat of violence an explicit act of violence with the boy collapsing at the end.
As in the previous transcription I have rendered the people watching into trees and pusehd them into the background. I also wanted it to be a modern setting so have added a car. Probably the weakest part of my painting is people and this was the first time I attempted to paint figures. This painting was done in November 2014.
My latest transcription, finished just last week is of Millais called Mariana. The original can be seen in the Tate Britain.
I was attracted to this picture by the strong colours, and particular the shape and the colour of the central figure. And the mouse. The story behind the original is that Mariana has been spurned by a lover and lives alone producing tapestry. That is what she is up to in the original. My rendition is much more faithful to the original structure than the other ones I've done, although I've changed the story of the painting. In this one she has just finished a book. The leaves have become scrunched up paper (or discarded leaves). I have also simplified it because, frankly the original is very detailed and beyond me. I am though, particularly pleased with the stool.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.