Master Copy -- advice is much appreciated!
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    Master Copy -- advice is much appreciated!

    I wasn't sure wether to post this in the Fine Arts section or here, but I chose the latter -- I hope I got it right.

    I've never really done much painting, let alone digital painting. I've been fooling a little bit around with acrylics and watercolors, but working with colors usually throws me off, so I've decided to try copy one the masters in hope of improvement: Gerome - La Prière au Caire.



    This is isn't much, but for now I've just loosely been trying to figure out some values. I'm probably gonna put some more effort into this part to see how accurate I can get the values and composition.

    But, I'm really just fumbling in the dark here and have no idea how to actually go about this, so any advice on a different approach or what-ever is more than welcome!



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    Hello JoFi,

    You'll give us more to crit if you invest some more time in it.

    Here's some stuff anyway:

    - commit enough time/ effort to something so you can make the mistakes you'll learn from. Mistakes and stumbling is good.
    - work on the practice of building up an entire image versus completing one area. That includes investing time in smaller areas enough to articulate something, and then moving on and carrying that across the piece versus finishing an area first.
    - allow yourself the freedom to make a "wrong" mark, experiment with leaving that mark on the page and push on, let a mark you put down on the page live for awhile and work the image.
    - let your marks build on themselves - study the masterstudy and think about how the form turns, how the light is working, etc. . . lay down a mark and leave it, build on top of it. Refine your decisions by viewing the last marks you laid down and ask yourself what does it need. Don't be hard on yourself when the stroke you put down doesn't look like the image, use that criticality to refine the next mark you'll make on top.

    - and be patient and commit the time to working and you'll surprise yourself.


    -

    Last edited by Derra; March 17th, 2012 at 07:05 PM.
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    Hi Derra,

    Thank you! Yes, you're absolutely right. Those are exactly some of things I usually struggle with!


    For now, it's late, and I guess I just needed to at least get started on it. Hopefully, I'll be able to dedicate some time for this the next few days.



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    you might be getting ahead of your self with this image, there is a lot of complicated perspective, as well as characters in diferent planes in space. there also wearing a lot of textured cloth. all in all this is HARD. im not saying dont do this because you cant, more its not worth taking it on. you would be better of learning all of the elements for this image, mastering them, then coming back to it.

    its like when james gurney starts a illustration process, he doesnt start slapping paint on a canvas... he goes away and researches and studies for weeks.

    i think you should be doing anatomy studies, value studies and perspective studies; all in greyscale.

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    Sorry but, you're just wasting your time with something like this. The idea of a master copy excercise is to do just that - copy the master work. That means in the same medium, the same size and as accurately as possible. The one exception is to render a master work in charcoal or other dry media (graphite) in order to understand values and edges.

    You simply won't get much out of it kind of fiddling around in Photoshop, no more than you would get from just analyzing and studying the piece, which is pretty hard to do on a little screen anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    That means in the same medium, the same size
    Seriously? I've seen loads of digital master studies on CA that were received very positively. I understand that using the same medium would obviously be much closer to studying the master, but as 99% is oil anyway isn't it a good compromise to use a different medium?

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    JeffX99:

    I don't mean to offend you, and I really appreciate your opinion on this. I'm really just trying to make the best of what I've got -- and this painting, which I found to be very inspiring, especially with regards to composition, values, and atmosphere.

    I don't have access to the real painting nor do I have a place, where I can be working with oils. PS and a Wacom is what I've got.

    I'm sure this will be hard as hell, especially considering my experience (or lack thereof!), and I'll probably fail at getting even the faintest resemblance with the original painting. I'm sure "fiddling around in Photoshop" can be considered analyzing and studying the piece, to some extend at least...!? In the end, my only real goal is to learn something from this struggle of mine!

    I hope you'll continue sharing your opinion, once I actually post some work worth commenting on!


    dog-faced:
    Yeah, I know it'll be be tough, but, as long as I learn from struggling with it, I'll consider it a success -- regardless of the finished image.

    I will definitely spend a lot more time on figuring things out in grey-scale: values, composition, and perspective.



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    Quote Originally Posted by JoFi View Post
    ...and this painting, which I found to be very inspiring, especially with regards to composition, values, and atmosphere.
    It's a great painting, but...compositionally, the forms are all essentially straight vertical and horizontal "boxes" (with a few diagonals thrown in); value-wise, it's clearly broken into a dark foreground, medium-value middleground, and light background; in terms of "atmosphere," it's straight-up textbook atmospheric perspective (everything gets more air-colored as it gets farther away.)

    Which is to say: in terms of "composition, values, and atmosphere" there's not much difficulty in copying this picture, because the composition, values, and atmosphere are all really, really, really, really, really simplified. You may as well be copying a Mondrian. It's not that this picture (or any of Mondrian's) isn't a great work of art--it's just that it's so straightforward that making a rough copy of it is a trivial task.

    If you're interested in the costumes, the poses, or the architecture here and want to study those by copying, fine. But in that case I'd recommend you use an actual pencil and paper and focus more on the contours and shapes than just banging in areas of tone like you've done so far. Otherwise, I'd recommend you find a harder subject to tackle.

    As always, just my two cents.

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    I'm sorry, am I in the wrong place or something...?

    For whatever reasons, you seem to just belittle this journey of mine. I haven't had formal art education, like you may have had, except for 6 months of life-drawing, so this really is an exploration of something new -- for me at least it is.

    If you feel I don't meet the minimum required level of expertise to be posting in here, just say so.

    ---

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    Maybe I overreact, sorry. I should really just be drawing/painting!

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    Quote Originally Posted by JoFi View Post
    If you feel I don't meet the minimum required level of expertise to be posting in here, just say so.
    There is no minimum required level; all that is required is the drive and genuine interest to learn and improve. Giacomo didn't mean to put you down; what his post boiled down to is the fact that if you're going to do a master study, you would be better off doing one that is likely to teach you more.

    I guess the big question is then, what is it that you're expecting to learn from copying this image? I'm not saying that in a condescending tone, but it's important that you set a clear goal for yourself if you're looking to learn something.

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    I fully get what Giacomo was saying -- the way he put things just seemed belittling... I'm definitely open to suggestions -- if you have something else in mind...?

    As said, I don't really anything about this, hence I don't know what to expect.

    The beauty of just doing and exploring something is that, somewhere along the way, you might discover something wonderful!

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    JoFi are you new here?
    I see you are registered quite a while, but that can mean anything.

    The forums can be a bit of a smack in the face especially if you don't expect it. Lots of people here do art for money/a living/are professionals and being present here implies that you are expected to bring with you the attitude of wanting to improve. A good 75% of one-posters in this forum never come back.

    If you feel the responses have a negative impact on you, then take a step back. There is nothing wrong with that in my opinion.
    Have you made progress on the piece yet?

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    Try to do the same study in just 5 shades of gray, including the black and white. That will force you to think about value breakdown more carefully, and be more useful than the study you've shown here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LordLouis View Post
    Seriously? I've seen loads of digital master studies on CA that were received very positively. I understand that using the same medium would obviously be much closer to studying the master, but as 99% is oil anyway isn't it a good compromise to use a different medium?
    No. A major aspect of undertaking a master copy is to learn how to paint. What if you were to try a master copy of an oil but in watercolor? They are completely different. The differences between a "digital painting" and traditional are just so vast I see very little one can learn making a master copy in photoshop.

    Edit: And yeah, I've seen loads of them on here as well, and most don't have any idea of what it is about and how to learn from it, yet they throw out this "I'm doing a master copy" thing without understanding why or how. I was just trying to help the OP realize that studying the piece is perfectly valid, but a master copy is a different thing entirely.

    Last edited by JeffX99; March 18th, 2012 at 06:49 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    No. A major aspect of undertaking a master copy is to learn how to paint. What if you were to try a master copy of an oil but in watercolor? They are completely different. The differences between a "digital painting" and traditional are just so vast I see very little one can learn making a master copy in photoshop.

    Edit: And yeah, I've seen loads of them on here as well, and most don't have any idea of what it is about and how to learn from it, yet they throw out this "I'm doing a master copy" thing without understanding why or how. I was just trying to help the OP realize that studying the piece is perfectly valid, but a master copy is a different thing entirely.
    Thank you for the explanation!
    Well CA is my only reference, so I had just assumed master copies are usually done not in the medium they were painted.

    I just wonder whether other information, such as ways of lighting and colours can be extracted nonetheless.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LordLouis View Post
    Thank you for the explanation!
    Well CA is my only reference, so I had just assumed master copies are usually done not in the medium they were painted.

    I just wonder whether other information, such as ways of lighting and colours can be extracted nonetheless.
    Yes they can, but that is my point about just studying the work. You can get what you need as far as studying the light, color, composition, etc. by a thorough analysis of the work. The reason to do a master copy is to understand and experience much more subtle elements within the work, which includes the use of the master's media. Photoshop isn't going to do that for you.

    My real point here, I guess, is people can do all kinds of things they've heard about, think they should do or think they will learn from. This approach is not one of those things and imo is a waste of time. My advice to the OP would be to go ahead and do a pretty good analysis of this work, make some notes if you want, etc...but then draw something.

    If the OP really wants to learn something, get a bunch of nativity scene figures, put them on a box, get a little silk rug and basically set up a similar scene as close as you can. Take it outdoors and position it so the light is about the same...and draw it. Draw each figure at around the same time of day. Do another drawing where they are all composed in the same scene together. Then do a painting. This kind of study over a few years is what will help the most.

    Last edited by JeffX99; March 18th, 2012 at 08:02 PM.
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    "This approach is not one of those things and imo is a waste of time. "

    Sorry I dont agree; copying an oil painting in Photoshop might not teach you a lot about oils but it teaches you a lot about painting, and photoshop.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Velocity Kendall View Post
    "This approach is not one of those things and imo is a waste of time. "

    Sorry I dont agree; copying an oil painting in Photoshop might not teach you a lot about oils but it teaches you a lot about painting, and photoshop.
    That's cool VK - I agree it will teach you a lot about Photoshop - but no more than doing your own thing. They just don't have any real relation to each other as far as process. I suppose if one gets something from it, and doesn't call it a master copy it's all good. My point is simply that it isn't a master copy and you're time is better spent in other study. Same with copying images from books...the learning value is nill.

    Edit: Thought of a decent analogy...doing a master copy in photoshop would be about the same value as trying to learn how Jimmy Page plays guitar...on your synthesizer. You may learn quite a bit about your synthesizer...but how much have you learned about playing the guitar?

    Last edited by JeffX99; March 19th, 2012 at 12:43 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    That's cool VK - I agree it will teach you a lot about Photoshop - but no more than doing your own thing. They just don't have any real relation to each other as far as process. I suppose if one gets something from it, and doesn't call it a master copy it's all good. My point is simply that it isn't a master copy and you're time is better spent in other study. Same with copying images from books...the learning value is nill.
    I think in most cases, digital artists use studies of the masters' paintings as a study to help them learn to control the digital medium and mimic a more painted look (and learn to avoid the overly smooth, over-rendered appearance that comes so easily to digital 'paint'). And I think they use the term 'master copy' simply because it's the easiest/shortest way to explaining to viewers that the work is not really your creation - you didn't come up with the concept and research the environment, get refs for the poses, and come up with the composition yourself; it's a copy from a master work. (Just my 2 cents of course.)



    To the OP: I think the problem you're having in this thread is simply that your current WIP does not give us much to critique, so people are instead trying to advise you on your choice of study to help you achieve your goals faster. Giacomo didn't commented on your expertise at all; he was critiquing the painting and suggesting that it's not the best subject for you right now. And on that topic, I would personally suggest doing smaller, simpler, and faster studies from life where you can explore the whole process quickly and repeatedly instead of getting bogged down in all the little details present in the painting you've chosen. Just pick a simple object from around the house, put it on your desk, and paint it as best you can. It may seem very boring and unchallenging compared to your current project, but it's harder than it sounds and I think it will teach you more than copying this image.

    In terms of the technique shown in the current WIP, I think you will have an easier time using larger brushes with higher opacity. It's more efficient and will help you get through the initial blocking stage much faster. Look at all the little half-transparent strokes you used to sketch in those rugs and think about how many more half-transparent strokes it would require to get them to the right value. Grab a medium value, block in the rug, get a slightly lighter value, and block in the lit part of the rug - sketch it in with two nice big, chunky strokes. You can go back in afterwards with a smaller brush afterwards and tighten up the edges and soften the gradation as needed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dierat View Post
    I think in most cases, digital artists use studies of the masters' paintings as a study to help them learn to control the digital medium and mimic a more painted look (and learn to avoid the overly smooth, over-rendered appearance that comes so easily to digital 'paint'). And I think they use the term 'master copy' simply because it's the easiest/shortest way to explaining to viewers that the work is not really your creation - you didn't come up with the concept and research the environment, get refs for the poses, and come up with the composition yourself; it's a copy from a master work. (Just my 2 cents of course.)
    Oh yeah - I get all that. I understand why people want to call it a master copy. But just because they want to call that doesn't mean it is. The point is, the term "master copy" refers to a fairly specific excercise...you're either doing one or you're doing somehting else.

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    I think you will have an easier time using larger brushes with higher opacity. It's more efficient and will help you get through the initial blocking stage much faster.
    This is something I'm learning too, and it's invaluable. Getting those initial shapes blocked in quickly really does make the rest of the job a lot easier because there's no transparent areas needing constant work to build them up to an appropriate opacity level (hope that makes sense - I'm no digital artist so I'm just speaking the way it makes sense in my own head...).

    Re the master copy discussion. Pretty interesting to think about from a traditional point of view because I always thought of "master copies" as exercises in using the same techniques/media/etc as the original artist. But in this day and age where traditional media can be incerdibly expensive, not to mention messy and time consuming to set up and clean away afterwards, I also get why people use digital methods for the same exercises. The only problem with that is, like Jeff pointed out, they're learning about digital methods, not about how it feels to slather the paint on the canvas using the same strokes the original artist used or how they solved their various problems etc. I dunno. Maybe call the digital versions copies after or something similar because it does seem like this is boiling down to incorrect use of terms, which fair enough might confuse people who arent aware of the differences?

    Anyway, no idea if any of that made sense. It was really just a musing response to an interesting subject.

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