First Snow and the Art of Stealing from Yourself

Graphite on paper and vellum, courtesy of the digital world.
IMG_2265 2
close up “First Snow and the Art of Stealing from Yourself”

The Creative Meanderings #1: Art Theft a Personal History

Great-great aunt Dearie would never know that she made my love of art possible.

Over the course of my life, which really hasn’t been all that long, creativity has been a constant. When I was young, the world just didn’t seem interesting enough, my imagination would kick in and I would create; create art that could perhaps help the world resemble the potentials in my head. But we all come to a point when our skills can’t live up to our ideals. So I had to learn and I had to find a way to learn.

At the tender age of about four, craving more than what my wobbly lines and impressions, I had to improvise. And in my search, I raided the cache of vellum my Dad inherited from my great-great Aunt Dearie. That’s when I began to steal art.

One of my strongest childhood memories is the acrid smell of the sharpie markers that my small hands clung to as I euphorically saw my lines combining with those of art, real art. I was never really stealing, because I was small, then young, then conscious that for work to be mine it had to be mine alone. But the skills I gained were mine and mine alone.

My tracing excursions began with heaps of illustrated books that were close to my heart. But I soon found an artistic affinity with Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbs comics. And so, accompanied by the voice of my mom as she read aloud, I would spend hours tracing the existential boy and his “imaginary” friend.

 What began with traced Calvin and Hobbs comics turned into my very own watercolor paintings with people whose hands resembled bread loaves. Then came the vellum again, this time tracing masters like Mucha, Frida Kahlo, and Audrey Kawasaki. From there I would freehand other masters like Klimt, and if I was feeling particularly cocky, Da Vinci. And that led me to today, the first day I’ve ever stolen my very own artwork.

Thanks to vellum, to stealing, I’ve learned many of the artistic skills I now rely on, perhaps some stealing isn’t all that bad after all. And while I am unable to decide if my admiration for Picasso’s work outweighs my disgust at his attitudes towards women, this quote of his gives me succor for all those vellum-ed forgeries,

 “good artists copy, great artists steal.” 


Creative prompt: Steal some art (no, not really). 

    1. Choose an image of something you’d like to draw, but perhaps can’t (this can be an artist’s masterpiece, a hand, your child).
      1. If found online, print out. If found in a book, please keep it in the book. 
    2. Find some thin paper (cheap notebook paper works), tracing paper, or vellum.
      1. If using tracing paper or vellum select a felt-tipped pen or marker.
      2. If using thin paper use a pencil, to save yourself the grief of ink bleeding to the image below.
    3. Trace, “steal”, the art or image of your choice. And try to let the lines you draw become finger memory. 
    4. When you finish, attribute your tracing the artist and cite your source.
    5. Repeat the process until it becomes rhythmic.
    6. Share your tracing (always remember to credit to the original creator/artist/source). If you share via Instagram or other social media sites use the hashtag #cogneyezant.