The Auto-Didact Way Of Learning How-To Illustrate

Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery

Lacon, Or, Many Things in a Few Words: Addressed to Those who Think

A simple and true term. These are the most famous words of English writer and cleric Charles Caleb Colton.

Imitation is what I’m doing mostly when I try out my painting skills. I am still a beginner and my techniques are lacking. So how to fix that? Easy, I do it like many before me and replicate. If it looks like the original painting then I obviously mastered the technique. If I imitate long and often enough I finally will be able to create strong images myself. For right now I venture only to simple territory when I create original paintings but in the future I want to make elaborate stuff without first figuring out how-to.

Sometimes I will duplicate a whole picture and sometimes I’m just interested in special aspects which will result in something more or less similar to the original.

I scanned some of my stuff. The colors come off lighter than in IRL, I’m not sure why. Still haven’t figured out the settings. For comparison I included the originals.

mon general copy from nancy z

Nancy Zhang - The General
Nancy Zhang – The General

Nancy Zhang has a series of super sweet and colorful illustrations on her blog. This one is my favorite.

The next three are copies from Laura Laine. She is the queen of gothic fashion illustration with her dark female images always being big-headed and decadently long-haired while the bodies get super slim but elongated limbs.

Laura Laine copy Artemis watercolor

Laura Laine illustration - Artemis in Alexander Mcqueen
Laura Laine illustration – Artemis in Alexander Mcqueen

watercolor Laura Laine copy- Flora in iconic Balenciaga

Laura Laine illustration - Flora in iconic Balenciaga
Laura Laine illustration – Flora in iconic Balenciaga

My very first one:

watercolor copy of Laura Laine Athena

Laura Laine illustration - Athena
Laura Laine illustration – Athena

I mostly use watercolors and make a sketch beforehand with a pencil. As I am crazy about using as many different colors as possible I usually end up with less dark illustrations.

Copying is easy. As you can see the progress is really fast. But now I haven’t drawn humans since a few months, I’m afraid that I have to start at the Athena level again.

 

6 thoughts on “The Auto-Didact Way Of Learning How-To Illustrate

  1. This is an enormously useful way of accelerating the learning process. One thing that I struggle with myself with this approach is whether there is a danger that you’ll have difficulty finding your voice as a result. What do you think?

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    1. So good that you point that out, Andy (that is your name, right?) It is indeed a concern I also worried about. But whenever I create something original then, I can see that my own voice is there and waiting for my skills to get better so it can break out even more🙂
      It is important never to stop nourish your own phantasy and maybe to stop duplicating once reached a more advanced skill level. I think from then on other artists work should at most used for inspiration.
      However I am sure that even later to a certain percentage it will be noticeable who the illustrators role models had been. But I don’t see this as a problem. It is like I am a secret student of their art school.
      It is comparable to other art forms like in music when a band is inspired for example by the beatles.

      I hope I answered your question to satisfaction.

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