Even the old masters used reference, and we need to as well. As artists we often think of our developing technique, style, approach and flow. But we must also consider our maturing ability to find reference. As you start to get a feel for colors, values, compositions and all aspects that make up art you have to search out and find people and art that will help push us further. This is why we reference old masters. An amazing photo might show you a great use of composition, lighting, color and a number of other elements but how is that going to help you with your brush strokes, simplification, and a million other things an artist must do that a photographer or model just can’t. Art is always about expanding what you can do but deepening it.
As a fantasy artist, my initial thoughts used to be about creating huge epic pieces with a million characters all in high intensity poses flying all over the canvas, but certainly not a little girl sitting on a stoop. But look down below and this piece by Bouguereau, its simply amazing. Its not fantastic or spectacular subjects or profound concepts that make art beautiful, it is being able to paint, and paint well, that makes a piece ever lasting.
Reference the Masters | AKA GOOGLE
We have the chance now to go on the internet or head to a museum and soak some of the best paintings ever created. They weren’t about creating magic lighting effects or spectacular scenes, they were about good painting and you should be too. Use the opportunity we have in this day and age to search out these amazing works and really study the artists hand. Look close, take your time and see how each artist in his own way took their time, and studied their material to make every part of their painting a masterpiece.
And finally I have another piece to share called the Desert Strike. It may be far from the Bouguereau, but I used at least three master works to help me understand a variety of different aspects of creating the piece. While it may not be obvious or even apparent in a lot of cases, it did help me grow much more then finding random images on google. In the end doctors learn from doctors and artist must learn from artists. We can draw upon our own personal experiences and likes for numerous areas in creation but do not cast aside those who were exceptional in their time, especially if you want to be exceptional as well. Now I am off to start the next piece, ahhh the artists work is never done.