A Favorite Theft Target

Pink Calla Lilies

“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:


Happy New Year 2019

Hoping you and yours have a wonderful 2019!

Mary Gwyn and Twinkie

New Year’s Resolution: More Stealing

You stealing from me???

“Good artists copy, great artists steal,” Picasso as quoted from “Real Artists Don’t Starve” by Jeff Goins

A couple of weeks ago, I was standing around in a FedEx Office store waiting for the computer guy to finish my project when in the distance I spotted the word, “Artists” in the title of a book on the rack where there are usually books on sales and other business type information.  “Artists” is never a featured word in the title of sales and business books. It just isn’t done.  Artists aren’t considered business types. We’re too flakey, or whatever, to be taken seriously by the business world.  I moved in for a closer look.

And guess what??? It was a business book, believe it or not, for artists! Oh Glory!  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Of course I had to buy it!  Not just because it was for the business of artists, the title was so intriguing too!  The book is called, “Real Artists Don’t Starve,” and even better, it is written by fellow Nashvillian, Jeff Goins.  So far it is a red meat book for all artists.  I haven’t gone far in the book because I am caught up in Chapter Two.  Most likely, I will re-read this chapter a few times before progressing to Chapter Three, because it is so good. Chapter Two encourages artists to steal from other artists.

Stealing???  I’m shocked! Scare bleu!  (To steal a phrase from Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.)  A deeper dive into the second chapter and I find I have been stealing since my very first painting when I was eight years old. That first painting was stolen from Van Gogh and I have been stealing ever since.  After Van Gogh, I have stolen from my other idols like Degas, Bonnard, Wolf Khan and Georgia O’Keefe.  And that’s just for starters!  The list gets really long, when it moves to today’s contemporary artists.

Goins point is, as he quotes from the bible, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  And he’s right.  There isn’t. The wise artist sees that. According to Goins, we spend a lot of wasted time trying to be original without realizing who we are as artists is original!  Unless you are a forger, most likely you are not copying exactly but are taking pieces from another artist, or artists, to create something new. We learn from those who have gone before.  We honor those who inspire us when we spend time copying from them.  More than that, when you follow a teacher’s direction, you are stealing ideas and techniques from that teacher. And that’s a good thing!

This New Year, I am resolving to do more stealing!

Happy stealing, to you, for the coming year!!

You can pick up a copy of “Real Artists Don’t Starve” at Amazon, Barnes and Noble here, or from Goins web site: www.goinswriter.com



Twas the night…

Have a Happy Holiday Season!

Painting without a Fight

Cardinals in the Snow

After posting this painting on my website, Mary Gwyn’s Art, I was looking at it in the web format and seeing things I hadn’t noticed when looking at the actual painting.  Sometimes a painting will surprise me when I observe it from a different angle.  This was one of those times.  What struck me was the warmth in the birds.  I had set out to paint a cold winter scene but these guys don’t look all that cold to me, in spite of the falling white stuff.

The warmth didn’t bother me.  It just puzzled me.  I had to go back and think about what I had done.  Indian Yellow!  I love that color and sometimes I just get carried away with it.  It warms up everything, no matter what it is.  Recently, a pear came alive from the generous application of Indian Yellow.  That pear was flat out glowing.

These birds could have become a little more chilly, like the weather, if I had added a bit more Hooker’s Green or Payne’s Gray to the red.  But I didn’t.  The Indian Yellow just jumped onto the brush and away it went. Like the pear, these birds are glowing.  Maybe they are supposed to. Cardinals can be like that in a harsh winter landscape.  That bright shock of red flitting by in the cold gray light. It wasn’t planned in this painting. It happened because that pesky Indian Yellow was bent on taking over. Some colors do. It is usually better not to fight when a color is determined to dominate. 

(This painting is for sale at Heart and Hands on Main Street in Franklin, Tennessee.)  

Franklin, Tennessee is a great vacation place if you, “aren’t from around here!”

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