On Learning To Paint

On Learning To Paint | bluchickenninja.com

A few weeks ago I decided to buy a set of acrylic paints. I had been wanting to try painting with acrylics for a while and Cass Art had an amazing deal on this particular set. I tried a few little paintings with my new fancy paints but wasn’t happy with the result. I have a feeling that this is because for most of last year I only painted in watercolours and its surprising how different the two mediums are.

With watercolour you start off light then work darker. With acrylic you start with a midtone then work lighter and darker. When I’m working in watercolour I know exactly what paints I need to mix to get a specific colour. With acrylic you need to use entirely different paints to get the same result. I basically had to start back at the beginning.

I decided to try doing a master study. This is basically where you copy a painting, all the hard bits like composition have already been done for you. You’ve probably seen people doing this in art gallerys. Now many people on the internet will tell you that this is a fantastic way to learn how to paint. But I just can’t get my head around the fact that I’m copying something.

All the way through school and college you’re told that copying is bad. Everything you do has to be your own original work. But the rules are a little different in the art world. Copying is okay if you are trying to learn and I have learned a huge amount. But it still feels weird knowing I am copying another persons work.


54 Responses to “On Learning To Paint”

  1. Dean

    Copying isn’t always necessarily bad! You can’t really get anywhere unless you do a few copies first! I copied for years before I went to college and they told me in college that it’s great for helping to establish your own style, once you don’t depend on copying a certain artists style completely! ^.^

    • bluchickenninja

      Yeah I was told something similar at college too. Basically if you can copy just do it, makes everything easier. This was on a graphic design course so its not like you are expected to be an amazing artist. In a work place you would just do layouts, someone else does the art.

      I still feel weird for some reason. Ehh.

  2. Dean

    And more importantly, I hope you enjoy using acrylics! I, myself love using them, personally!

  3. gruundehn

    Great-great-grandfather, Adam Henderson, used oils I think – I’ve seen only a couple of his paintings. But oils and acrylics work differently than watercolors, watercolors absorb light and oils and acrylics reflect light. So you go in different directions, opposite directions in fact, to get the same result. I can’t paint worth anything but I remember that from the one class I took all those many years ago.

      • gruundehn

        Yeah, something I think I remember from about 50 years ago. It is amazing what sticks in the memory. This is also why the primary colors for photography and painting are different.

  4. Dan Antion

    One of my hobbies is woodworking and we are forever copying the “masters” and many people make a living selling these works.

    • bluchickenninja

      Huh interesting. And here I thought copying was only okay if you don’t sell it. I suppose its different with woodworking. Thanks.

  5. ljaylj

    As long as you don’t claim it as yours…it helps in the learning stages. Would like to see some of your paintings. I am particular to water color.

  6. Liz0215

    Good luck on your new adventure! I admire anyone who has any amount of determination to do any sort of art; draw, oil based, water color, acrylic. I have zero artistic ability but I love looking at others accomplishments!
    Enjoy your new paints!

  7. realdelboy

    Many years ago while at school I was only doing drawing classes, so I started painting at home as I really loved art in general, the first acrylic painting I did was a copy of Van Gogh Cypress trees, but did it from a small black & white image in a book, doing it this way it left a lot more freedom & expression for your own interpretation.

  8. Charlie

    Yes! But it’s all in the name of learning. 🙂 Good luck! I’ve never worked with watercolors and felt more comfortable with acrylics….well, back when I painted.

  9. Warrior Freya

    I believe it was Newton who said, “We see far because we stand on the shoulders of giants.” Learn from the masters and then go off on your own way. You’re not trying to be them, you’re just trying to get a feel for a new medium and learn from them. There’s nothing wrong with that. : )

  10. Oh, the Places We See

    I’m just beginning with acrylics myself. Interested in what you said about beginning at the middle and going from there. Hadn’t thought of it that way, but you’re right! Thanks for the tips.

  11. oawoodward

    With something that requires a degree of technical ability, there is absolutely nothing wrong with copying in order to build your skills. I danced for 10 years, and no one would ever expect me to start out by choreographing an original routine. I had to learn how to do other people’s creations to a high standard before I could create my own original piece. It’s a similar thing with art, I feel.

    • bluchickenninja

      I never really though that ‘copying’ would apply to dance too. I just assumed you learn the moves then put them together. Interesting. Thanks 🙂

  12. shifaazham

    I think it’s great that you’re venturing into painting with acrylics because not many people like to try something different than watercolour or oil paint. But once you enjoy doing it, the fun won’t stop! 😀 Be sure to share your paintings in the future, if you can!

    Also, don’t worry about copying especially when you’re learning something. Because you won’t be copying a painting and selling it, that will be a different story. Be positive! <33

  13. Nate Marks

    You need to think differently about copying. Copying is basically a learning tool. Think of how you learned to make letters: you copied and copied and copied until your handwriting was good enough for other people to read. Art and painting are no different. Just do it.

  14. Satin Russell

    You know what they say, “Imitation is the best compliment!” I think copying is only bad when trying to pawn it off as your own. You’re learning, embrace it!

  15. Mary Tang

    I think you are uncomfortable with copying because you are a creative person with your own, original ideas. Maybe a part of you is saying, ‘just do it’.

  16. Aimer Boyz

    Yes, I can see how copying feels weird. Perhaps, part of the learning by copying is figuring how the original artist achieved his effect.
    Good luck 🙂

  17. emilypageart

    Keep trying. Like anything, it just takes practice. Think of the first several pieces as things you’ll throw away. And copying isn’t bad as long as you don’t try to turn around and sell it as your own. Maybe copy elements of other peoples’ work for learning purposes and don’t worry about complete paintings. But again, keep trying!

  18. meetamorphotic

    Yes, it’s different with art. My art instructor said to learn the way of the masters, you have to copy – every line, every stroke, learn how to blend and mix colors. A good art student learns the basics and then morphs into her own artist. Learn to unlearn. Your style will manifest when it’s time. I was resistant at first but after a few pieces, it made sense. Keep on copying to learn (not to sell) and pretty soon you’ll be doing your own compositions. Keep on painting. Practice makes perfect! BTW – I am amazed at the amount of books you’ve read!

  19. Alexandra Nofi

    I did a master study/copy of Salvador Dali’s “Sleep”, while studying for my Associate’s in studio art. Last year, I did another master copy of one of Van Gogh’s sunflower still lifes. I thoroughly enjoyed both paintings. I learned about texture, light, shadow, color, and their individual painting styles. I don’t look at it as copying, I view it as a learning tool. A learning tool which masters like Van Gogh and Salvador Dali used when they were learning to paint 🙂

  20. delsheree

    I started out with acrylics, then tried watercolors, and I was amazed by how difficult they were for me! It’s been too long since I’ve painted, but I enjoyed doing master studying in my art classes. It’s a great way to test out different styles and techniques 🙂

  21. darkenwulfbytes

    Emma, you have to learn somehow and that’s a start. In writing, we instinctively copy a another person’s style and eventually learn to find our own.


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