“All art is theft,” David Shields from BrainyQuote
After discussing in a previous post about the importance of artists stealing from other artists, I took a look at my favorite targets and why I chose to steal from them.
Artistic theft is the truest form of flattery. We learn from those who have gone before by copying their technique. The Old Masters would have called that an apprenticeship. Artists learned by apprenticing to a master to learn from that master by copying his or her technique. And having mastered the master’s technique, a real artist would strike out on his/her own to forge new trails from what was learned from the master. And that is what real artists continue to do. Since we no longer have apprenticeships, we learn from different people, taking a bit from this artist and a bit from that one to make something completely new.
One of my favorite artists to steal from is Billy Showell, a delightful botanical Illustrator from the UK. I bring her books to all the classes and workshops I teach because there is so much to learn from her. My desire is not to copy her, though I am quite envious of her work, but to take bits and pieces and incorporate them into new works. Two techniques I particularly love are her design layouts and her semi-dry brush use to make veins in flowers, leaves and stems. When painting the above painting, I got stumped and went to one of my Billy Showell books and looked at how she approached calla lilies. There I found the help I needed to complete the painting.
No one would ever mistake my painting for a Billy Showell painting but a closer look and someone might say, “She used one of the techniques Billy Showell uses.” I would be quite happy with that and pleased with myself! My painting is not a Billy Showell because only Billy Showell can do a Billy Showell, but I stole some of her technique from her book and made something new. Perhaps Ms. Showell has written her books to invite us to steal. She also has some wonderful videos on YouTube. Check it out and maybe like me, you will want to steal from her too! Go ahead! I’m sure she won’t mind.
You can find her at her website: Billy Showell.com
Her books are available on Amazon: