DAY 6 - HOW TO BE AN ARTIST / by Debra Matlock

Lesson 3: Feel Free to Imitate

We all start as copycats, people who make pastiches of other people’s work. Fine! Do that. However, when you do this, focus, start to feel the sense of possibility in making all these things your own — even when the ideas, tools, and moves come from other artists. Whenever you make anything, think of yourself as entering a gigantic stadium filled with ideas, avenues, ways, means, and materials. And possibilities. Make these things yours. This is your house now.

Hoo boy. Looking over my choices, I revised them. I looked for a really simple version of a Basquiat and a Kalman. Not to say they’d be easy, but more like I had the slimmest chance to maybe reproduce them. I think part of their charm though is a spontaneity that disappears when you try to copy them.


I noticed all 3 “R” are different. The first two are almost like he wrote a “P” and then decided to make it an R. Which really works on the RAY being PAY. I don’t really know anything about boxing, but it always feels like it’s tied up in gambling, or a big prize. I like that at first it seems like a pure black background, but it’s got a lot of shades. It looks as though, it might be black fabric to start with? I like the tiny bits of blue oil pastel and the reddish brown box around RAY.

I didn’t want to waste a canvas on copying someone else’s work, so I used a tiny panel. It was almost fine, except the oil pastel was not in the proper scale. So the writing on mine was less successful.



This seemed simple enough, the version I looked at was more nuanced that this one above. More pinks. I tried to use gouache as Maira Kalman does. I used my new Liquitex ones, but was unable to get a pink that didn’t look like ham. So mine looks like a big brick of ham. Also, hard to see how she did the string, but it might be some sort of pencil? It looks amazing. Mine, again, does not ;)