• Seana Mallen

Steal like an Artist. (and a homage to Andrew Wyeth and Victoria Crowe)

Updated: Nov 18


Sometimes I look at another artist's work and think, "why do I bother?"

That bad voice in my head says, "They are SO awesome and brilliant and have created something that I couldn't EVER achieve and blah blah blah..."

Then I remember my mantra, "Compare and Despair!"

Of course I can't be Andrew Wyeth or Victoria Crowe, cos Andrew Wyeth and Victoria Crowe are already taken..

.But I CAN be me... and just borrow a bit...


Actually copying another artist's work faithfully is a great way to study and learn his or her techniques.

Of course it's also plagiarism. You would never try to sell this work or pretend that it is yours, just as you would never copy out a Shakespeare sonnet in your own handwriting and then sign your name at the bottom 'cos you "wrote" it. But copying is useful learning tool.


Better still is to go beyond thinking "This is SO beautiful!!! "or "I LOVE this!" to really analyzing:

"What is it in this work that speaks to me?"

"What do I like about it?" "Why does it work so well?"

"Do I love that colour, or this particular colour combination? Is the colour saturated or muted?

"Is the composition dynamic and contrasty or does it feels calm?"

Do I like the thick brushstrokes, or the drips, or the transparency?"

Simply figure out how the artist reaches out and touches you.


I found it especially useful to look at two very different artists whose work blows me away and then look at the common threads that sing to me.


First I looked at Andrew Wyeth's almost monochromatic and moody watercolours of the people, farms and landscape within a few miles of the home in Pennsylvaniawhere he lived all his life. He never traveled and astonishingly, because he was ill as a child, he NEVER went to school. Educated by his artist father, he created his work with almost no influence from the outside world. His work has a deep resonance and an emotional atmosphere, through carefully observed realism.


And then I looked at Victoria Crowe's glorious colourful oils of Scotland, Venice, India and beyond. She was educated in London and Edinburgh, traveled widely and was very aware of the broader art world. Her colour is incandescent and she often incorporates many different ideas and images into a single unrealistic composition.


At first glance these two artists seem like polar opposites, and in many ways they are. But they both delight me, ands I looked for the things that they might share.


I think for me, (and this is a very personal view)they balance a little bit of fine, beautifully observed drawing against large areas of loose textural painting.

These large areas usually represent something, but they work as pure abstract shape.

In Wyeth's pumpkin paintings above, 3/4 of the painting is mainly dark texture, or in this painting below, ALL that white space with the tiny bit of exquisite drawing in the "r

Rod and Reel". That makes me tingle!




I also love the way that Victoria Crowe incorporates this realistic drawing into compositions that don't worry about perspective...

So how do I steal like an artist?


I realise that I like a tiny bit of fine drawing balanced with big areas of more abstract and textural painting .

And I like it when some bits of drawing can appear almost like collage, as in the painting above.


That's a simple starting point.

I can steal these ideas from Victoria Crowe and Andrew Wyeth, and try to apply them to my own work.


I also love that Victoria Crowe uses a lot of low-contrast harmonious colour. I usually use bright and contrasty complementary colours, so I think I might "borrow" Victoria Crowe's palette for a while, and try it on for size..

She also uses a lot of glazing and allows a lower layer to peep through a more opaque top layer. that's something else I've got to try! SO now I'm excited and can't wait to get to work and play with these stolen ideas.


So, my work is never going to look like Victoria Crowe's or Andrew Wyeth's. I WISH!

But I can borrow from them and try to make some of their ideas my own, with great appreciation and my deep gratitude.

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