The Original Copycat / Unfinished Business

I was at the studio the other day.

My routine on arrival borders on the superstitious:

  1. I unlock the doors.  This is less a superstition, and more a necessity.
  2. I grab my water dish, which will be lined with a fine, sludgy, gray film.  This is the settled sediment from my previous watercolor session.
  3. On the way to the restroom, I grab the coffee pot and filter basket and clean all three objects.
  4. Fill coffee pot with tepid water.  The water never gets cold.  If it did, then this step would be, “fill coffee pot with cold water”.
  5. Retracing my steps, I fill the coffee maker with the water, put grounds in the basket, and start the machine.  It’s important to make the coffee strong enough that it could substitute for India ink.  An artist is always thinking three steps ahead…
  6. I bring the clean water dish to my workspace, and fill it with filtered water from a jug.  Filtered water is ridiculous, but a studio-mate of mine insists that the trace amounts of chlorine in St. Paul tap water will have its way with the pigments and the paper over time.  The image of a car muffler being completely melted away by Coca-Cola won’t leave my mind, so I heed his warning.
  7. Using this water, I wet each of the paint cakes in my “palette”.
  8. While the paint softens, I throw a cd in the stereo.
  9. While the coffee brews, I make my rounds.
  10. This is my chance to spy on the work that my neighbors are doing.  “Getting Inspiration” would be the polite way to say it.

It was during one of these walks around the studio that I encountered a fantastic landscape that Warren Dahl had started in acrylic.  I was enchanted by the colors and the bold movement, as well as the moody weather it depicted.  Most of all, though, I was taken by a couple striking gashes of naked canvas.

Although they were just blank spaces that Warren hadn’t quite gotten to yet, I loved the violent interruption of them.  They were design elements in their own rights.

So I poured myself a mug of inky black coffee, nabbed my now-moist watercolors and some paper, and set to work copying the picture the way I saw it.


Partway through my plagiarism, Warren showed up.  He liked my take on his work, and actually apologized for “being in my way” while getting some things from his workspace.

Truth be told, my work is not that faithful a replica of the original.  My coloring is typically more garish than Warren’s.  By its nature, watercolor produces different effects than acrylics.  Not least of which, watercolors lack the solid opacity of the other medium.

This picture came together quickly, in about two hours.  The result is a strong picture in its own right, which takes nothing away from the original, which looked just as great finished as it did when I encountered it in its unfinished state that day.

Keep the comments coming.   And share your stories about a time when something positive has come from copying someone else.


This entry was published on July 3, 2012 at 7:12 pm. It’s filed under Bold Color, Humor, Seasons, Style, The Artistic Process, Watercolors and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

6 thoughts on “The Original Copycat / Unfinished Business

  1. Pingback: What Comes Naturally (Hand In Mug) « Gabriel Garbow | Artworks

  2. This is amazing, Gabriel. You inspire me to work more with this medium.

    • I’ve only just started delving into your blog, but it’s already starting to get my creative gears a-grinding. Thanks for the encouragement… and feel free to offer specific critique, if you’re so inclined – or comments, observations, requests, etc…!

  3. This is very interesting. I’d love to see a comparison with Warren’s.

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