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Studies & Homages


What is the modern definition of homage?

It is a “special honor or respect shown publicly.”

Yet the Middle English usage referred to a “ceremony by which a vassal declared himself to be his lord’s “man.”

While the stereotype of modern artists brings visions of wild, boundary-pushing bohemians to mind, it was preceded by the much longer tradition of apprenticing oneself to a master.

Hours upon months upon years were spent copying every detail of the master’s style to tame and refine raw talent into a highly refined set of painterly skills.

The goals were not only an artistic and not rebellious, they were  decidedly not ephemeral. Apprentice artists learned to be most distinctly practical.

Every apprentice’s artistic endeavors were  a means toward the end of earning one’s keep in the mater’s studio. If all went well, one day they would find patrons, earn commissions and raise themselves up beyond whatever lowly life was otherwise fated to confine them.

• • •

I am blessed in two ways.

First, I would never  even have a the chance to apprentice in the olden days— after all, I was born a girl.

Second, I actually began my art studies in modern public school at a very young age, decades before current budget crunches make that impossible.

My classmates and I were taught the fine tradition of sketching and painting studies— copies really— to learn how the masters did it.

Working away at these studies forever erased any false sense of superiority or puffed up confidence. We quickly discovered how difficult it was to breathe life into a gestural drawing, or make watercolor flow with ease and precision. Not for us the usual put-downs about modern art: “Anybody could do that, it doesn’t take talent to make abstract art.” We learned, as did those medieval apprentices, that artistic mastery is as much in what you leave out, as what you put into a work of art.

But I digress!

To this day, I see sketching studies as much needed practice to sharpen oft-neglected rendering skills.

I see the challenge of doing a formal “homage” as my thanks to those artists who forged a bright path ahead of me.

I highly recommend them both to any artist, master or apprentice, at any age.

• • •

The image below was my first block print… a technique my best friend’s artist father taught me that involved carving really stiff linoleum mounted on wood, then using a difficult to control gelatinous roller to hand apply ink onto the back, then transfer that onto thin unreceptive paper.

Hesitate, or get spastic, in any phase of this operation and it would  slide from art into bleeding fingers or glopped-ink mess.

I kinda love that this print shows the ill-effects of time on the  starchy paper and acid-laced cheap mat board I had available. It felt like I had been time-warped back to the ancient days and got my chance to be an apprentice!

Ahoy there!

BlueShip Block Print - the early days - Diane A. Curran ©