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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > January 2020 > Structure, form and space

Structure, form and space

Adele Wagstaff begins a new three-part series in which she explores how artists can learn from copying the work of the Old Masters

This series will explore how artists, both throughout art history and those working today, have used the practice of copying and making transcriptions of works by the Old Masters in reference to their own learning and the making of work.

Why make copies?

Selecting a particular statue or painting to observe closely and then draw helps us to connect and engage much more than when we purely stand and look. We can learn so much from the art of the past and the artist’s process, how artists have explored composition, applied paint, used a variety of brushstrokes and mark-making. Drawing from works of art has always been central to my own practice and is something that I have always encouraged students to do.

Frank Auerbach continues to draw from paintings in the National Gallery, as he has done since being a student in the 1950s. The walls of the downstairs coffee bar at the gallery are lined with Auerbach’s drawings and we can see the various ways that he has approached drawing from paintings; often he will draw from the same painting hundreds of times. Often the paintings are easily identifiable whereas others can be much harder to understand. The drawings are executed very quickly, often with what appears to be a thick black felt-tip pen. It is the underlying structure that underpins the picture’s composition, which is what the artist is capturing time and time again. In this collection of drawings Auerbach shows his lifelong commitment to drawing from paintings.

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About The Artist

Welcome to the first 2020 issue of The Artist. With a new year of drawing and painting to look forward to Paul Talbot-Greaves suggests 12 ways to help improve your watercolour skills throughout the year. Our four-page diary with the details and entry deadlines for all the main open competitions to enter will help you plan your year, while Bob Brandt's advice will help you maximise your chances of success. Watercolourists will enjoy Ian Sidaway's feature on painting the Rockies, Jake Winkle's focus on why good design is essential for an attention-grabbing composition, Julie Collins' colour-mixing ideas for winter trees and Jenny Wheatley's guide to choosing the best watercolour paper for your style of painting. Follow Robert Dutton and Soraya French and used mixed-media techniques to paint landscapes and flowers, plus Robert Brindley demonstrates how to capture light on water in pastel. With demonstrations in gouache, oils - including how to paint noses - charcoal and pastels, there's something for everyone, whatever your preferred medium. Why not make 2020 the year to try a new one with inspiration and guidance from The Artist?! Enjoy!