Working Toward a Masterpiece

The very idea of me creating a "masterpiece" is hilarious. I mean, I'm still trying to figure out how to paint! But the fact is that by learning oil-painting techniques and absorbing all of the information and advice from oil-painting artists that I can, with every stroke and every finished painting, I am getting better, so I guess a masterpiece could be in my future.

If you are a little bit farther ahead of the game than I am, you may have started copying works of other master artists. Pursuing your oil-painting instruction directly from the surfaces of the paintings of great artists is a savvy way to strengthen your observational abilities and paint in the footsteps of painters who have inspired generations.

View of Toledo by El Greco, 1596-1600, oil on canvas.
View of Toledo by El Greco, 1596-1600, oil on canvas.

Here are a few tips about copying artworks so that as you paint other masterpieces, you get what you want out of the effort and can eventually turn your attention to a masterpiece of your very own:

Choose wisely. Of course, you should choose a painting to copy that you don't mind looking at…a lot. But also choose a work that is in line with the goals you have for yourself as an artist. Honestly assess where you need to improve and choose a master work that demonstrates strength in those areas.

Do many copies. What you want out of this endeavor is a feel for the way the great master painted it. Your work should be as bold as the original. The exercise is not about making an exact replica; it is about harnessing the skills that created the painting in the first place. So do a few copies, and do them with feeling!

Landscape with Factory Chimney by Wassily Kandinsky, 1910, oil on canvas.
Landscape with Factory Chimney by Wassily Kandinsky, 1910, oil on canvas.

Remember your palette. A copy can certainly be done with the exact palette the master used, but if you don't have that information at hand, don't give up. You can also create a copy using a limited palette or your own palette.

For additional key insights and approaches to the oil painting techniques you want to master, Oil Painter's Solutions is available. It is an oil-painting landscape workshop, cover to cover. Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.