Inspiration From The Masters For An Amateur Artist

In composing a drawing, I would choose a central subject and surround it with elements from different sources to complete the composition.
In composing a drawing, I would choose a central subject and surround it with elements from different sources to complete the composition.
Sometimes I would create a border for the subject and its background and create elements for a secondary fore and background.
Sometimes I would create a border for the subject and its background and create elements for a secondary fore and background.
(Painting of Madame de Pompadour by Francois Boucher)
(Painting of Madame de Pompadour by Francois Boucher)

Where It Started

In the course of developing my own styie of drawing and composition (such as it is), I became settled into a kind of system of what I call (for lack of a better more accurate term) shallow inspiration.  Most often, in the process of composing a drawing, I begin by searching through commercial images for some person, object, or collection of objects to "inspire" me.  It could be anything from a flower or a facial profile shot in a particular light to a collection of the same or an organized or posed scene.  Usually I'll choose something for a central subject that I think will make an appealing image and continue from there, assembling other images (usually bits and pieces) that I find appealing or further "inspiring".  Over the years, this has become a common procedure for just about all of my artwork including embellished portraiture. 

Somewhere between the odd trip to the museum and my occasional exploration of the works of master artists, I've recently (within the last several months) found myself getting lost in many of the drawings and paintings of the masters of Baroque (and some Renaissance) period art.  (Now, at this point I would like to make it clearly known that I am by no means an art historian or any other kind of expert on art, art appreciation, or art history.  I'm simply sharing my experience as an amateur.)  I found myself doing quick crude sketches of Baroque paintings and drawings.  Then, later, I did more detailed and comprehensive drawings of well known paintings.  As a result, I began to take notice of style, composition, the use of light and shadow as a part of the composition. . . the more I studied them, the more I saw in them.     

How The Inspiration Has Grown

As I continued to study Baroque art through drawing, I became very taken with the use of detail and the dynamic figures and poses in the paintings.  In the paintings with single figures there was a wonderful use of shadow and highlights in the clothing and objects around the subject to hold your eye where this was done with the figures in other paintings and drawings.  As I continued, my interest began to spread beyond Baroque period art to both earlier and later period art.  While my focus is still largely centered on Baroque period art, I've become interested in emulating the styles of other periods as well.  However, along with this interest, I've discovered a need for study in the area of figure drawing. 

To be able to understand and match the dynamic nature of the figures in the artwork I've been studying, it will be necessary to develop an increasingly better feel for the contours and dimensions of the features of the human body.  To become more and more comfortable with the appearance of the body in different positions, frequent and numerous studies of the body will be necessary.  Doing so will not only make the studies easier, but, they will eventually make it possible to create original compositions using many figures, that will be dynamic and catching to the eye.  This, however, takes time.  And a lot of it.  So, in the meantime, extensive use of resource material will be necessary to produce original compositions.   

I've come to understand, in the process of study by drawing, that the learning involved is, in itself, quite comprehensive and detailed.  The position and shape of every muscle changes, in some cases, quite dramatically, with the many possible positions of the body.  And it gets better.  Along with the change in shape for each respective muscle there is the affect that it will have on light and shadow respective to the position of the light source and the body (or part of the body) in relation to it.  Also, there is a completely new set of variables to consider when clothing enters the equation.  The material the clothing is made of will dictate how it behaves and is affected by the body (or body part) it's wrapped around.  The material will also dictate how it will reflect or absorb light.  Environmental behavior of this kind must be taken into consideration for every element in the picture if significant detail is intended. 

Fortunately, all these things can be learned while using the aforementioned appropriate resource material in the production of "master-inspired" original art work.  But, it wouldn't hurt to couple the use of resource material with anatomical studies.  Simply copying the art work itself can be enlightening too.  Matching the lighting in a painting to a photograph can also make for a wonderful portrait.          

The "Creation of Adam" panel, Sistine Chapel ceiling.
The "Creation of Adam" panel, Sistine Chapel ceiling.
My attempt at a color copy of the Sistine Chapel ceiling panel.
My attempt at a color copy of the Sistine Chapel ceiling panel.
Another portrait of Madame de Pompadour (Francois Boucher).
Another portrait of Madame de Pompadour (Francois Boucher).
My portrait of the daughter of a friend, inspired by Boucher's painting.
My portrait of the daughter of a friend, inspired by Boucher's painting.
"Princess Hyacinth" by Alfons Mucha.
"Princess Hyacinth" by Alfons Mucha.
Original drawing of mine inspired by Alfons Mucha's work.
Original drawing of mine inspired by Alfons Mucha's work.

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