One of the greatest things about being an artist is that your education is ongoing. If you want to be better then it's really all in your hands at your disposal. You just have to apply yourself.
When many young artists start out they usually start out by copying other artists to figure out how they do what they did. Soon they'll go on to develop their own style constantly feeding and adapting everything they see and live through. I really didn't do any copying. I felt like it was cheating, but then I didn't realize I would never get a chance to study and learn with my heroes.
So one day I decided to give it a shot and see what happens. I grabbed the new J.C. Leyendecker book, wrapped it cellophane (to keep it clean) and started my own version of the cover. I wasn't looking to match the color, only the brushstrokes and problem-solving.
What I realized pretty quick is how fast you get the drawing down. It feels great as the progress just comes along speedily. All you have to worry about is making it look like what you see. Not easy but easier than coming up with it. NO WONDER so many young artists continue down this path only to come out in the end a bad imitation of the masters!
Next up was Gil Elvgren. Now in this case I wanted to understand how he acheived that luscious skin tone and figured out how to group his shadows and light in such sexy forms. I had to switch over from hogbristle brushes to softer brushes...another new territory for me. Talk about lush strokes, it was easily addictive. But to really look at the color and see what I wanted to see I painted the picture upside-down. Meaning while I was looking at the reference the right-side up...I was translating in my brain just as you see below.
I don't know if that kind of trapeze act really helped or not but I like to think I got closer to my goal in understanding Elvgren's color theory. Besides it's fun to shake stuff up once in awhile.