Copying the masters! It’s what we Arr-teests are supposed to do, especially as students. I really failed to appreciate this exercise literally at all for the duration of my formal education, despite going to school down the street from a major art museum.

Student copying at an art museum saying "This fucking sucks"

This year I’m trying to practice everything more, especially drawing. I’m trying to be a student again. My goal for this year was to do 50 copies of basically any piece of art I find compelling, and try to learn something from it. I’ve done 12 so far. Maybe I’ll start tracking them as a list, that could be interesting. I try not to work on them for more than 30 or 40 minutes total. This helps me stay loose and not get too obsessed with perfection.

This week I copied Witches’ Sabbath (1797-1798) by Francisco Goya:

Copy of Witches' Sabbath by Francisco Goya

And the original:

Witches' Sabbath by Francisco Goya

I’m really working on depicting shapes using light instead of heavy lines and environmental. Looking at both paintings side-by-side I mostly see mistakes, but when I look at just my copy I see the areas where I’m improving, or doing something new.

Goya painted this during the later part of the Spanish Inquisition. According to wikipedia, Goya’s paintings of witches covens were an act of protest against the way the Spanish Inquisition used a culture of fear to control people. “Goya’s depictions of such scenes mocked what he saw as medieval fears exploited by the established order for political and capital gain.” Illustration is a powerful tool for protest, and those who hold that pen have the responsibility to wield it well.