A visit to any of the great art galleries of Western Europe would not be complete without observing a first or second year art student assiduously copying an old master in a quiet corner. It was therefore fitting for students in the visual arts unit ARTS241, to be tasked with replicating the work of some of the most renowned artists in history for their final assessment.
Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, and Rene Magritte were among some of the well-known artists to be chosen by students. However, there were also some left-field inclusions, such as the late American painter, Bob Ross, whose syndicated instructional television program The Joy of Painting (1983-1994) has been revived in the online world, and the relatively unknown Australian impressionist painter, John Peter Russell, whose work was introduced to students during a visit to the Queensland Art Gallery.
The method of ‘copying’ an old master’s work is a centuries old classical training technique, where students are required to study the composition, colour palette, brushstrokes, and other formal elements of an original painting before creating an exact replica of the work. As well as improving their technique and observation skills, this method also helps students to understand specific approaches to executing a painting, and the conceptual framework for the creation of the painting.
After copying an established painting, students were then free to create a canvas in response to their chosen work, where they could refer to the original in a direct or indirect response, using their own reference points, experience and creativity. This freedom has seen some fine works created this year, and reflects the strong student engagement with visual arts on the Brisbane campus of ACU .