Copying the Masters

Did you know that many of the most successful artists copy the masters as part of their training to learn the techniques of those great master artists? The profound influence of the work of Jean-Francois Millet upon Vincent van Gogh cannot be overstated. Van Gogh copied twenty-one of Millet’s paintings.

The following series of images are of a watercolor painting I did last year, copying from Winslow Homer’s A Quiet Pool on a Sunny Day.


Using an 11″ x 15″ piece of Arches Rough 140 lb. Paper and an Alvin Tech DA Lead Holder with 2B lead, I drew my sketch. After I completed the sketch, I photographed it using both the natural light from my studio’s north-facing window along with my studio lights. As you can see the right side of the paper is darker than the left side. This is what happens when you quickly shoot your images without using professional lighting. At the time I shot these photos, I had not planned on sharing them with anyone.


I began by laying color into the big shapes. And then I took a break to allow the paint to dry.


Next I painted the tree shapes, and the darker area of water. Always keep in mind that watercolor paint lightens once it drys. Compare the wet, dark purple on the mountain in the previous step to the lighter purple at this stage.


A bit of warm color was added to the bank, followed by some violet on the boat’s stern.


Darn, the shadow on the rear of the boat is too dark! Oh, well…this is watercolor so forget about it and keep charging ahead.

A Quiet Pool on a Sunny Day_Salaski_Homer

The finished painting. My rendition is a far cry from Homer’s masterpiece, but I really enjoyed myself while doing this exercise. I just wanted to have fun and do a quick, loose painting. Doing something like this can fill you with a sense of accomplishment. I still like everything about this painting except that black shadow on the back of the boat. But in watercolor you’ve got to learn to live with your mistakes or start over from scratch. Starting over from scratch would’ve ruined the experience for me so I just kept going.

Homer - A Quiet Pool on a Sunny Day

A Quiet Pool on a Sunny Day by Winslow Homer