Creativity is best learned by inspiration. By copying drawings we admire, working in the style of someone else, we learn how it feels to move our hands and make marks in different ways. By studying the work of others we can progress towards making our own original pieces. As long as you don’t sign such studies and try to pass them off as your own, this is a perfectly legitimate path. The correct way to sign such studies is to write your own name and then ‘after’ the name of the artist you have copied, eg “Jeni Caruana, after Leonardo da Vinci”. Otherwise, copyright laws are quite strict and you could find yourself in trouble.
Looking at an artist’s drawings is usually much more interesting and informative than looking at their finished paintings. Drawings, studies and sketches are generally more immediate and vital than a painting that has been planned and perhaps reworked over time.
Van Gogh’s inky jabs, the intricate marks of Rembrandt, the flourishes of Picasso reflect every twist of the stroke, pressure on the paper and gesture of the wrist. Look carefully at those lines; the speed of the drawing is often noticeable too, captured in the texture of the mark; the roughness or smoothness, its weight, its wobbliness. Time itself has been captured in those lines. That’s quite profound when you think about it.
These days, it’s easy to type ‘drawings by Michelangelo’ (or any other artist) into Google and find many examples to study. Have a good look, and try to imitate the way you think the artist drew it, fast or slow, light or heavy, thoughtful or fleeting. Every line is a statement, a form of communication. Experienced artists can express their personality and emotions simply using patterns of lines.
When you think about it, your signature is really a self portrait. Most of us, as young teenagers, wrote our names on everything – our pencil cases, book covers, even furniture and walls.. It’s a way of putting our mark on the world. I think we all did it. Eventually, when we learn ‘real writing’ we start to practice a signature. Over and over, until it feels right to us. It’s an expression of how we feel about ourselves. Shy people often have tiny writing, Confident ones tend to have large writing, with swirls and embellishments. Your signature is a very valuable thing; everything you put it on belongs to you!
In the same way, your drawing ‘style’ will emerge, with practice. Your lines will become more and more personal and unique to you. They will start to feel ‘right’, and as the technique becomes easier your work will begin to show your feelings and emotions.