The Sincerest Form of Flattery

It’s been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the art world, imitation is also a very important part of the learning process. One of the first “tricks” I discovered to help improve my drawing skills was that of copying what other artists had done. I faithfully copied Kate Berry’s sketches in Drawing Lessons, and did my best to copy the images from other art books and tutorials.

These were lessons, of course. The illustrations were meant to be copied over and over again. It was a teaching method that enabled me to develop my drawing ability.

It’s been much the same as I’ve moved on to painting. With both watercolor and acrylics, I’ve copied illustrations from books, videos, and online courses. Again, these are lessons. The artists, authors, and teachers are putting their works on display and encouraging students to copy.

We do learn a lot that way, and the practice of copying works of well-known artists has been suggested to me many times. I could never see myself trying to replicate a famous work of art, though, no matter how helpful the process might be. I shudder to think what my version of La Gioconda or Girl at the Open Half Door might look like.

I’veย come to a point with my art studies where I’m looking more at artistic styles. I haven’t discoveredย a style of my own yet, but I’m beginning to feel my way along the path. I look at paintings and styles I like, and I try different approaches. What that involves, of course, is once again copying from others, or perhaps now, it’s more a matter of emulating what I see in the work of another artist.

Aubrey PhillipsRecently, while visiting Brushes with Watercolor, I learned about the artistย Aubrey Phillips. I was immediately drawn to the colors — especially his skies — and a quick search of Amazon yielded a treasure: Watercolor Painting with Aubrey Phillips. I picked up a used copy of the book for a more-than-reasonable price.

I’m not making any attempts to copy any of the artist’s paintings, but rather to allow his art to influence me. I read his thoughts about paintings, and I carry those ideas over to my own watercolor. I look at his images, then draw upon them for inspiration as I create my own.

Pirate CoveHere, with grateful appreciation to Aubrey Phillips, is my watercolor, “Pirate Cove”, inspired by the beautiful seascapes Phillips has painted…and inspired, too, by my yearly re-reading of “Treasure Island.”

Next to his, mine looks a bit sad, yet I think I’ve made a good start at capturing some of the colors and a bit of the mood I see in the art of Aubrey Phillips. To me, those are the important things, the things I like best in this artist’s work.

Studying his works has been rewarding. It’s one more step toward finding my own style and discovering who I am as an artist.

What artists have influenced you?




  1. My father was a huge influence… next to him… here is a short list of artists (so hard to choose) I have studied…copied… and admire… Andrew Wyeth, John Singer Sargent and probably all time favorite… want to paint like him… in every way… Richard Schmid… if you are not familiar with him…please do a search… (image in google… and youtube… you can watch him paint… incredible artist)

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  2. Wonderful painting. Of course your painting isn’t like his because it’s from you, a unique work of art with your personal style! I do the same thing by reading other blogs and ” copying” writing styles while I discover mine, like you.

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  3. Beautiful! I wished that I could click on it to enlarge it because I loved it! I also appreciate that you did not try to copy Aubrey Phillip’s painting but rather used it as an inspiration. I have been mulling something over lately and will post it soon. Debi has encouraged me to share it but I am a little reluctant because I don’t want to offend some folks, so mysterious, I don’t mean to be. So, back to you…..I think that you will find your style, it is there, it takes a lot of painting and discovery to help it to come to the surface. I admire many artists Albert Bierstadt is tops for me…..I have a whole line-up but his is the one that really gets me. My most favorite painting in the world was painted by him and I actually have seen it at the Haggin Museum in Stockton. Your painting is not sad, it comes from you, even though it was an inspiration, you painted your own version. I truly love it, don’t compare because his painting was from his experience and his own hand. Comparing negates your own artistic path that you have within you. ๐Ÿ™‚ you have a lot to share, don’t forget that.

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    1. Thanks, Margaret. This year is really going to be all about finding myself as an artist…my style, my personal preferences, my approach. Looking at the works of other artists helps me figure out where I want to go. I think watercolor is a good place to be. I’m really enjoying it. Of course, in time, that might change, but right now I do want to continue working to learn and improve my watercolor painting. I’ll be looking forward to your posts and thoughts. I’ve been a bit scarce lately because I’m in the process of setting up an online business (don’t know if you’re familiar with Perfectly Posh) and that’s been taking a lot of time away from my blog-reading ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Once I get myself all situated, I’ll be able to start “making the rounds” again every morning.

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      1. Thank you, Margaret. If you have any questions about any of the products, please let me know. I got my consultant’s products last night, and I’m loving the “Big Fat Yummy Hand Cremes”. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. Such an interesting post that made me stop and think, Judith. I am also drawn to color, and seem to get the urge to add a splash here and there in sketches, even when my original intention was to just do black and white (which is rare, since I am drawn to color!)

    More recently, however, I have been interested in hatching effects and creating texture in my work. Robert Crumb did that so well and prolifically in his cartoons. Tommy Kane also does very, very detailed work with amazing hatching to show angles, shadow, and texture. I really loved your perspective on copying as a tool to learn, and actually have not done this for a while, since I was in my first high school art classes. I do agree that this is a tool that artists/art teachers gift when they reveal their techniques.

    You post has made my ears and eyes perk up, and I think I might just be doing an exercise soon.

    I really appreciate your thoughtful posts, and it is fun to come along on your art journey! Happy Friday. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Thanks for visiting. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, and I’m very happy that your ears and eyes perked up. ๐Ÿ™‚ Most of all, I’m grateful to you for joining me on my journey.


  5. You do learn a lot by copying. But that doesn’t mean reproducing what the other artist did. Just learning something from it, or getting an idea or two. This looks Turneresque to me as well–Turner’s watercolors are wonderful.
    Everything I see or read about influences me. I copy artists all the time. I would have to say probably Matisse comes out on top as an influence, or Monet perhaps…well, too many to mention.
    Just go to museums and galleries as much as you can; you’ll always see something that inspires. The internet is good, but really looking at the work is better.

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  6. love those soft pale colors of peach and blue, so delicate and dreamy! your rocks in the foreground, dark and craggy are a great contrast too. Aubrey Phillips’ work is quite inspirational Judith. And, my, don’t get me started on Monet or Turner or Sargent!! lol

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    1. Thanks, Debi. There are so many wonderful watercolor artists, aren’t there! It’s always fun to discover a new one and to see what I can learn. I really do like the colors Aubrey Phillips uses in his paintings.

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      1. Yes, and it’s amazing to see artists finding new ways to create. No one can ever learn it all because there’s something more to discover the next day.

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  7. I was always impressed as a child by the work on the ‘Food and Mouth’ painters calendars. I thought if they could paint without hands, then surely I could paint with. The other who impressed me was Rolf Harris ( On a children’s show he would quickly do a painting on a huge canvas with huge brushes and it was just a few weird colored lines until right at the end you could really see what it was. He was off the pedestal when he was later convicted of pedophilia.

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  8. This is a great post! Copying styles has been a huge part of my learning as well. When I was first learning to sketch, I copied character designs from Glen Keane and other internet artists to learn how they put shapes together. In painting, I’ve recently been turning back to Monet, Renoir, and Cassatt, because I was obsessed with the Impressionists as a kid (and still am, honestly). Contemporary artists like Pascal Campion and Liana Hee also really inspire me. Oh, and the other artists in our WordPress community are constantly giving me new ideas. ๐Ÿ˜€ Beautiful painting, and great discussion!

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    1. Thank you, Annie. My childhood favorites were the same as yours, along with Edgar Degas. Cassatt was probably the very first artist I learned about. When I was very young I had a puzzle of “The Child’s Bath”. I worked that puzzle every night before bedtime. I love all the Impressionists. I’ll have to check out Campion and Hee. Thank you for telling me about them. ๐Ÿ™‚ I love discovering new artists.

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      1. Same here! I did a presentation about Mary Cassatt when I was a kid that really sparked my interest in Impressionism. She was a cool lady. And yes, how could I forget Degas? His work is stunning.

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