On Copy, Paraphrase and Inspiration in your arting

Yesterday I had an interesting exchange with a fellow Artingess – on the nature of her creative process. Hers, she said was solely inward, introverted and she tried not to be inspired or influenced by anything. The unfortunate Mrs. Trump’s speech has even been mentioned as an example how things can go wrong.

Yes, I agreed, up to a point. But my process and what I am trying to encourage others to do is a bit different:

I can use the tool of copy-ing (for example to learn the technical aspects of a craft) and paraphrase to explore the issues so many people and artists have dealt with before. Only I never copy verbatum.

What it means I look for elements of constrution, meaning, authorial intention and my own reaction to the work of art in place. And paraphrase those – re-interpret them with my own eyes, voice and hand. After all, we can understand something fully only if we can be playful and creative with it. Not my thought but loosely remembered Elliot Eisner’s, the founding father of modern art education.

This process often leads to very interesting results.

See the below re-reading, interpretation, or if you want…my answer to Henri Matisse’s work The Snail.

The Snail 1953 by Henri Matisse 1869-1954


The first one was a reaction to how the Snail was constructed – made by an aging artist from pieces of paper prepared by his assistant. I used books as building blocks, and reacted by a calm monochrome palette.

The second two reacted to a meaning – “snail trails” over pieces of paper on the easel/drawing board.

The third (necklace) – as a way to remind myself of the author’s intention but even more of the circumstances of Snail’s creation – fragility of the old age. A fluffy necklace – kind of solace worn around a neck to comfort oneself in difficult times.

The fourth one – a reaction to my personal reaction to the piece – of joy, and playfulness, and irreverence – messing up the mirror with plasticene I was supposed to save for my nieces.

This has been roughly the guideline I often use in my arting workshops when working in the galleries. But really any made object could be re-interpreted and understood and truly learnt this way.

Hope you are already feeling inspired not only to copy, but to create your own responses to the art works of the past.

The methodology draws loosely on British gallery education but mainly on the Czech Art Philetics thinking, an experiential movement in the current visual art education.






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