Copy Famous Paintings – Pablo Picasso


What is it?

Painting Child with a Dove, 1901 by Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso

How was it done?

Picasso painted this picture quickly with a few strong lines and bright spots of colour.  The forms are rendered in simple sweeping lines, there are three tones, light, mid and dark with greenish tones dominating.  The colours are subdued and controlled by swoops of line.  The picture is thickly painted with superfluous details left out.

This painting was done at the commencement of Picasso’s blue period when he painted in blue and green monochromatic colours only.

Why should we care?

The painting gives us an insight into the personality of Picasso at 21 when the portrait was done.  It shows his thoughtfulness and poetic sympathy with the subject.  At the time, Picasso was facing difficult years without a studio and he struggled to survive and sell his paintings. This was reflected in Picasso’s paintings of poverty and instability done around this time.  In the blue period, he often painted the desolation of social outsiders, prisoners, beggars, circus folk and despairing people.

Where can I find more paintings like this?

Picasso was influenced by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and this can be seen in the portrait of Monsieur Boileau done in 1893.  Edgar Degas was another influence and his 1895 portrait of the Seated Woman reflects this.

Meditate, relax and enjoy

There can be no mistakes in making this painting.  Everything ends up as it should be.  Take the luxury of “time out” to recreate this fabulous painting in acrylics yourself, here’s how:

You will need

  • a small canvas, 30cm x 40cm is a good size
  • tubes of primary acrylic colours, blue, red and yellow plus white
  • a dark watercolour crayon
  • soft nylon paint brushes, (small, medium and a little larger)
  • water in an old container
  • a rag or disposable cloth
  • an hour or two

Tips on the Process

  • prime the canvas first, otherwise, just a wash and dry with a towel
  • print the photo you want to work from, measure and cut into quarters to make your drawing in a grid
  • turn the original photo upside down to make the drawing
  • use a dark coloured water colour crayon for your drawing
  • correct drawing right-side up from the original
  • erase crayon easily with a damp cloth
  • it is okay for the watercolour crayon mark to bleed into the painting
  • everything is easily painted over with acrylics
  • paint in the background first
  • try not to use paint directly from the tube; experiment with how to mix colours
  • create a perfect skin tone by blending warm yellow, warm red, a dot of cool blue and lots of white, experiment first
  • layering colours on top of others using the scumbling technique creates magic
  • acrylics dry darker than the mixed colour

The Drawing Process

Turn your photo upside down and draw the space around the drawing first.  This is just a framework to place the figure on the page and you can easily correct right-side up with the dampened cloth as I have done below.

Otherwise, you may use my drawing below.  I suggest you ask your copy shop to print the PDF below onto a canvas and proceed to make your own unique painting.  Otherwise, you can print the copy on to good quality paper, paint the picture and frame it.  It’s your painting after all!

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Image from accessed 18/08/2016

Courage – Daily Therapy for Artists

Car Elijah.jpg

My favourite thing is to go where I’ve never been.”  Dianne Arbus


An Acrylics Exercise after Vincent van Gogh

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This exercise in the Expressionist style can be done at home and is suitable for beginners.  Painting in an Expressionist way means responding to the subject with your emotions. Bold use of colour, distorting forms or painting them more simply as blocks of colour that interact with each other are some of the features of Expressionist painting.  If you are keen to research, some artists who worked in this style are Van Gogh, Oscar Kokoschka and Edvard Munch. Now if you are ready to get started the following “night sky” exercise is an easy one for artists of all levels including beginners.

You will need:

  • 8 pots of acrylic paint, warm primary coloursUltramarine blue, a warm yellow and a warm red.  Cool primary colours, cool blue, Lemon yellow, Alizirian Crimson.  1 black and 1 white. Ask at your art shop for the different cool and warm colours.
  • 2 long handled paint brushes, one small, and one medium.
  • A small canvas, canvas board or paper suitable for painting with acrylics.  The size is up to you.  If using a canvas prime it first, otherwise wash with warm soapy water and dry.
  • Rags, a container for water.
  • If using paper, you may prefer to tape it to a board to make things easier.
  • Palette, I used two old kitchen plates.

You will need to allow about one hour for this exercise.  Do not be too precious about this process.  As you can see, I have slapped the paint on and the end result is loose and spontaneous.  You can do likewise!

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Firstly, draw in a simple village scene with pencil.  With ultramarine blue and a small long handled brush, draw over your pencil lines.  Holding the brush by the end of the long handle will allow your drawing to be loose and flowing creating a harmonious painting

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Complete all parts of the drawing with the blue paint.

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Paint in some crazy swirls for the starry sky.

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Mix in a small amount of cool red (Alizirian Crimson) into the Ultramarine blue to make a sky colour.  Paint in the sky with your medium sized brush. This cool colour will show the sky as receding.

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This is how your painting should look so far.

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Make up a green by mixing Ulttramarine Blue and Warm Yellow plus a very small dot of red.

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Paint in the foreground trees.  This warm green will bring the trees forward.  Cooler colours in the background will allow the scene to recede.

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Mix up a brighter green by using warm yellow and a small dot of ultramarine blue.

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Paint the yellowish green into the trees here and there using small strokes.  This will show the highlights of the foreground trees. Be bold with this and don’t be concerned where the highlights are placed, just allow the darker colours to show also, do not cover them completely.

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This is how your trees might look after putting in the highlights.

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Next, add some white to your ultramarine blue mix to add to the sky.

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Place dotted swirls through the sky in a flowing pattern and continue to swirl it through the areas previously defined for the stars.  Use dot strokes with your brush to get the Expressionist look.

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This is how your painting might look at this stage. It is best to take a break now and allow 20 minutes for the work to dry.

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Using a cool yellow (e.g. lemon yellow) continue to use small strokes to define the stars and sky even further.

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Mix up a cool green with Lemon yellow and Ultramarine blue plus a dot of Alizirian Crimson for the distant and foreground hills.  Paint them in using broad strokes.

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Add warm yellow in small strokes to the foreground hills to bring them forward.

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Mix up a lightish purple with Ultramarine blue, Alizirian Crimson and a small amount of white.

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Paint broad strokes of this purple into the night sky, particularly close to the hills and bring strokes of this purple throughout the painting into the hills.

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You can use the purple and other colours you may have on your palette to paint in the houses.  Stay with the colours you have already used.  It is best not to introduce new colours at this stage.

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Mix up a dark colour with warm red and cool blue.  If this colour is not dark enough for your liking, you may add a very small amount of black.  Use this colour to go around the houses.

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You can also use this colour to define the hills.

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Don’t forget to show where the moonlight hits the tops of the trees and houses by using dots of a light yellowish white on the tops of the trees and the roofs of the houses. Notice how I have left the foreground warm and light.  You have artistic licence and if you want to change anything just go over it once dry.  That is the beauty of acrylics!

A related post after van Gogh can be found in “Copy the Great Masters” category.


How to Prepare a Canvas Using Your Own Gesso Primer

Windsor and newton

Photo courtesy

If you want your work to last, it is wise to prime your canvas first because oil paint will eventually rot an unprimed canvas.  I recommend priming with Gesso when using all mediums including watercolour.  It is possible to use watercolour on a primed canvas as per my post, “A Few Facts About Watercolour.”

Firstly, hold your canvas under warm running water.  Using pure soap (Sunlight or similar works well), lather up a soft and gentle scrubber (old ones are good) and wash the canvas down thoroughly with the soap and water.  This removes the sizing and starts you off with a “clean slate” so to speak.

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Rinse until water becomes clear then dry off the canvas using an old towel.

Once dry, go ahead and cover the surface with Gesso primer.  You may use the Atelier brand which leaves a lovely chalky finish.  If you like, you may make your own Gesso (which is just as good and much cheaper) with the recipe below.

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Leave the canvas to dry, preferably outside.  This should take about 45 minutes depending on the strength of the sunlight. If there is no sun where you are, a hair dryer will do the job.  When dry, softly sand the canvas down with a very fine sand paper and wipe clean with the old towel.  I usually prime, sand down and wipe off three times to make the perfect chalky finish for drawing and painting. Don’t forget to allow your primed canvas to dry completely before sanding each time.

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This process prepares a fantastic surface to work on and I recommend leaving it for at least 24 hours to set. If I am feeling keen or perhaps doing a commission, I prime the reverse of the canvas too but this is entirely your own choice.

This is a lovely relaxing preparation and sets the tone for wonderful things to come.  I urge you to go slowly with this, smile, breathe deeply and concentrate only on the task in true Zen-like fashion. If you love your canvas, your canvas will love you and that is the start of developing a wonderful synergy with your upcoming work.

My Own Gesso Recipe

Most of this stuff you will have on hand at home so it is easy and quick to make your own Gesso primer. To make the primer you need a pigment, a binder and a tooth.

You will need to put one cup of warm water in a bowl, add one cup of glue, one cup of baby powder and a cup or so of left over paint.   This will make a syrup consistency.  If you want yours to give better coverage, use more pigment.  Usually, equal amounts of everything makes a perfect mix.  It is best to test first for coverage and drying time.  This dries fast!

When storing, rotate the sealed storage jar every now and then to keep the even syrupy consistency of the mix.

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