It’s a time-honoured tradition for student artists to learn by copying the paintings of master artists. For a while I’ve been toying with the idea of doing that, but doing it in pen and wash rather than trying to copy the original paintings exactly. Today I’ve created the first one, and have had such a good time doing it that I have no doubt it’ll be the first of many.
I have a print of Van Gogh’s “Café Terrace at night” on my studio wall and it seemed a natural place to start – I love Van Gogh’s work, and his use of strong outlines and a relatively simple complementary colour scheme lends itself very well to what I had in mind.
Starting with a 4×6″ piece of Arches HP watercolour paper, I put down some basic pencil outlines to get everything “placed”. I then did the drawing in pen, once again using a black Pilot V-Ball 0.5 for most of it, plus some 0.7 where I wanted some heavier lines. Here’s how the drawing turned out:
I then proceeded to lay on some basic yellow/orange and blue/purple washes using my new M. Graham watercolours, and to my horror discovered that, bizarrely, while the 0.5 is waterproof, the 0.7 does not appear to be, and you can clearly see in the final painting how the cobblestone lines in the foreground bled into the wash. Thankfully it wasn’t extreme, and it’s a lesson learned for next time.
After that I used several more layers of watercolour, getting darker each time, until I felt I had finished. I then added a few details I’d missed using the 0.5 pen again, but I also put a few select highlights and light textures in using a white gel pen (including adding more stars to the sky).
I really like how this worked out, and as I said it was really enjoyable to do. It’s not an exact copy, and there are some mistakes in the drawing I didn’t catch until it was too late (I’m not going to point them out, you can have fun seeking them out yourself!), but neither of those things matter – in fact in some ways I’m glad of it; it would be pretty boring for everyone if I was just making precise copies.
As I’m quite sure there would be copyright complications if I tried to sell this or make prints of it, I’ll be sending it to the Postcard Art Group. My wife actually bought me the print that hangs in my studio, and as she likes my version of it, she has kept it – a nice closing of a circle started 20 years ago!
Please feel free to leave suggestions in the comments for other paintings you’d like to see me do – I don’t claim to have extensive knowledge of art, so it’ll be fun for me to potentially discover paintings I haven’t seen before!