Never too Good or too Old to Copy and Learn

After a family vacation and tons of distractions, today I got back into the studio. A month or so ago, I won an award at the TC Steele Great Art Contest in Nashville, IN. It was a set of Richeson Pastels, but as a surprise, they sent along a Richeson 9x12 sanded panel, and 10 gray 9x12 sanded pastel sheets to try out. I wanted to try the panel, so I decided to pick an image from Wolf Kahn's Pastel book and copied it to see what I could learn about his composition.

Kahn's Strong Horizontal Images are Deceiving

I recently gave a short discussion on composition designs to the Northern Indiana Pastel Society, NIPS, in South Bend Indiana. Since I had been away from the studio so long, I wanted to ease back into work by doing a copy. I had always wondered about how Kahn could get away with such strong horizontal compositions without someone coming along and saying "they lead you off the page.

My exploration of this image taught me a lot that at first glance I didn't see or was deceiving. He uses a subtle Z, or S-curve as Edgar Payne would say, to move the eye back and forth. When I looked at the image below from his book, I saw that the bands of color, much like Mark Rothko's abstracts, were not quite equal at each end -- they alternatively narrowed a bit at each end. This gives an ever so slightly movement back and forth despite the first glance of seemingly bands of horizontal movement in almost thirds.

From Kahn's book of Pastels -- for learning purposes

In comparison, I’d say Wolfie still has mastered it! Although, I think my atmospheric perspective is better, his control of color and the subtly of changes to create depth is superior.

It's hard to know from a reproduction what the actual colors were. From my experience, reproductions lack the brilliance of color changes. So after blocking this one in, I ignored the reproduction and just went with my gut feeling of how to control the depth and atmosphere rather than trying to match the book's colors -- they wouldn't be right anyway.

What I Learned

  • Copying is good, no matter what stage of development I might be

  • I studied Wolf Kahn about 15 years ago, and returning to see what I missed was beneficial. See if you can find new lessons from your heros?

  • At my stage, If I copy a familiar hero, I want to see if I can do something different

  • I ended up loving the Richeson panel. It has a kind of linen texture to it which is a nice change from the UArt sanded I've been using


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