Oh just go ahead and copy!

February 8, 2015

Hitchens stillife, first sketch in watercolour crayon

Hitchens stillife, first sketch in watercolour crayon

What gets me painting is a tingling sensation, a momentary lifting of the heart when struck by something visual- a slant of light, two colours juxtaposed, the beautiful rounded form of fruit nestled in a bowl.
Though there has certainly been enough visual inspiration around, the drive to paint it has gone underground.

So I keep alert for that pinging, when my souls’ sounding has hit on treasure. Recently that has been happening with the work of other artists, so I follow where it leads.

First it was to the Isaac Israels portrait I did a few months ago. I just wanted to have the painting, not having 115,000 euros to buy it, I copied it and learned a lot by doing so.

Now I’m fired up by the more realistic work of Ivon Hitchens who worked in the middle of the last century. His abstracts are interesting, but it is the still lifes I gravitated towards. I saw my first one in ‘Flow’ magazine here in Holland (see below)  and have had it up in the studio for awhile.

Flowers, oil on canvas, Ivon Hitchens

Flowers, oil on canvas, Ivon Hitchens

I’m attracted to artists who somehow capture and release form simultaneously. I feel myself moving in that direction, and have been working that way in oil pastels for ages, but as soon as I pick up a brush things start having to be ‘right’. It is fine as a learning stage for these past 4 1/2 years of concentrated work on my painting, but slowly, I’m pulling out of that restriction and trying to find my own vocabulary.

So I really liked one of Hitchens’ still lifes, and made a spontaneous sketch of it with watercolour sticks (see opening image on this post). I bought some Caran d’ache ones in France and they are luscious.

Photo source





You draw with them and then go over your strokes with a brush and they dissolve into watercolour washes. I chose this medium because it was inexact and sketchy and would help me approach the feel of the original Hitchens painting below.

Still life by Ivon Hitchens

Still life by Ivon Hitchens

Then, after that preparatory watercolour crayon work, I did my own oil version below.

My copy of the Hitchens in oils

My copy of the Hitchens in oils

I love his greys, his greyed down greens, and the lovely warm orange pot. I also was charmed by the wonderful blue grey shadow shape running along the bottoms of those 3 white cups and the lighter grey negative shape it makes.

It was so nice to do, such a change from my usual way of working. So free and sketchy and painterly.

My next painting is also a copy. Giving myself permission to copy my favourite paintings is an unexpected gift. It gives me a chance to immerse myself in the world of some of my favourite artists, and to paint as if I were they. It takes away that yearning when I see a painting I wish I’d done, just to do it even though it is someone else’s style and discovery!! I know this is an important phase for me, opening possibilities in technique and content, so I’m going with it. It is also a lot of fun.

9 Responses to “Oh just go ahead and copy!”

  1. I also brought some of those sticks with me to Cyprus to experiment with. I’ve had them for ages but not really used them. They are fabulous colours.

  2. decorartuk Says:

    It’s really nice to see you are back, Sarah, and I love your new paintings – I know you were copying someone else, but you have no doubt added a bit of you. I think it’s a brilliant way to explore millions of possibilities in art and to discover (although in your case it is “to add to”) your own style.

    I’ve never heard of Ivon Hitchens, I’ll have to have a closer look at his paintings on Google. I’ll also have to buy some watercolour sticks – seems like an interesting medium. K.

    • Hey K, thanks for your thoughts. I think the watercolour sticks will be a great medium for you. You don’t have to set up paints, you can just grab them and start working.
      I keep discovering new ways to work with them.

      We went on a long camping holiday to France once, I decided to not bring my art supplies to see how that would be. It was sort of like not bringing a camera, you can be there more fully, supposedly.
      By week 2 I was foaming at the mouth and screaming, “Colours!! I have to have colours!”. R rushed me to the nearest art store and I bought a small set of caran d’ache watercolour crayons and have been adding to them ever since.
      (I no longer travel without at least some art materials 🙂 )

  3. I LOVE Ivon Hitchens’ work and your copy of one of his still life paintings is delightful. The watercolour crayons are a great tool for loosening up aren’t they. Incidentally, the top Hitchens still life is probably my favourite and is part of the permanent collection on display at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, Sussex UK. Also he lived near here in an old railway carriage.

    • Thank you for this wonderful response. So good to have some more background on Hitchens. I’d love to get up there and see some of his originals. The one I copied at first looked thin and washy, but when I studied the image closer, the paint is applied quite thickly in places. It would be such a treat to see originals up close.
      Yes, I like ‘Flowers’ too.

  4. estherjoy Says:

    It’s a pleasure to read and see your posts!

  5. Watercolor crayons! What will they come up with next!
    You’re feelings when painting are akin to the wonderful stirrings I feel with photography. Thank you!

  6. Hello Sarah,
    I have always liked Hitchens landscape work with their panoramic format and bold marks which bring to mind Howard Hodgkin. I knew nothing of his still life work so it was a pleasant surprise to see one here. Your study of his work has the feeling of spontaneity and energy, what an interesting way to ‘open’ up

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