Since the French Revolution, the Louvre Museum in Paris has issued a select number of copyist permits for artists to come in and copy the masters each year.
Copyist permits and programs are offered by prominent museums all over the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and these programs have turned out some of the most widely recognized and appreciated artists in the world. Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, for example, all worked on copyists permits in the Louvre.
The idea of copying the masters has been a part of classical art training for centuries, a method of learning new skills and styles.
It is in this vein that local artists Judith DesBrisay and Megan Long have set up their upcoming art show Inspirations.
Although they are not copying the masters per se, they’ve each created 10 works inspired by the creations of artists past. They used works by Lawren Harris, Emily Carr, Tom Thomson, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Burtynsky and Barbara Hepworth (among others) to inspire the works in their show.
But using a piece by a certain artist as inspiration doesn’t mean there isn’t more reflected in the work created. “When you’re making art, everything that you’ve already seen and already experienced becomes part of the piece that you’re working on,” says Long.
“One of the artists I really like,” adds DesBrisay, “he’s 99 [years old] now … people have asked him, ‘What artist really influenced you?’ and his answer was, ‘I’m a hundred artists deep.’ And that was how I feel. We chose, for instance, Emily Carr and we each did a painting based on one Emily Carr piece, and my piece has distinct references to three other artists, not just to Carr.”
Long and DesBrisay chose six pieces to use as inspiration together and then chose another four pieces individually to base their works off of, finishing with a total of 20 original works for the show.
They made sure to choose their inspiration from a wide range of mediums, including paintings, sculptures and photography.
But Long and DesBrisay are using other works for their inspiration; rather than creating a copy, their work is more inspired by a particular colour, line or form in the work in question. As such, similarities exist between the works, but none are the same. “It’s not copying Van Gogh’s sunflower, it’s being inspired by his colours or his flowers or his energy, to make our own piece out of it,” says DesBrisay.
Long and DesBrisay have known each other for about six years, having met and gotten to know each other at art shows and classes around Quesnel. One of their favourite things to do together is look at other art and point out the things each of them enjoyed about it. Putting on a show together was a natural extension.
“You should have seen us at the Vancouver Art Gallery,” says DesBrisay.
“Yes, we’re the people that the guards are coming up to [and asking], ‘Can you please step back?’” Long laughs.
Both artists have very different styles. Long is a landscape artist while DesBrisay is an abstract artist, and both experimented with their styles for this show, using things like acrylic and oil paints, gold leaf, resin and digital manipulations.
Long and DesBrisay say they hope people will really look at the pieces, both the original and the inspired piece, to see what they’ve done with their inspiration. They hope the show will encourage people to see more and become more aware of the influences in a work of art.
Long says another hope for their show is that it will introduce people to artists they may not have encountered before.
“And also to be inspired themselves,” says DesBrisay. “[We want people] to be inspired by the masters that we’re echoing, but also to say, ‘Holy cow, I could do that too.’”
Judith DesBrisay and Megan Long are opening their show Inspirations at the Quesnel Art Gallery on Oct. 12 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
They will also be hosting a Gallery Tour & Talk on Nov. 1 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. They’ll walk around the gallery, speaking about each painting and opening a dialogue to answer any questions people may have or listen to their comments and ideas.