For this week’s art practice I chose to make a copy of a newspaper illustration by Dan Smith from the early years of the 20th Century. Smith’s pen and ink work is superb and I wanted to test my skills. I chose a cropped image of his “Antony and Cleopatra” illustration as my subject. There’s no question that this was a difficult copy. His marks are so delicate and complex that I had to make the copy section by section in order to not create too much confusion for myself. I tried different pen and brush combinations in the process, trying to figure out what he might have used for his original artwork. I still don’t know. Ultimately, I found that a rapidograph-style pen was the most satisfying but there’s no way he used one of those! He probably worked quite large and used a dip pen with a small nib. (Unless he used silverpoint which is conceivable but unlikely.) My linework is certainly less sensitive than Smith’s, but the copy isn’t too bad for all that.
Here is a look at my sequence.
Making these copies is instructive and helpful for my skill set. Each time I create one I learn something that I’m not sure I could learn through any other method. It’s as though the original artist is momentarily my tutor. I do think this rendering might have been more sensitively done using silverpoint. I think I can remember where I put that silver wire…hmmm. Well, maybe next time….