The Best Way to Learn Is to Steal…

The best artists are often the best thieves! Not the bad kind. Just in the sense they are able to observe and mimic the techniques of other artists.

There is nothing wrong with this. It is just part of the learning process.

You find people who are better than you and you try to learn and adopt as much as you can from them. Eventually, you will be in a position where you start to further develop the techniques you have learned and they become your own.

You do not need to try and be innovative when you start learning how to paint. You just need to be a great observer. The artists who excel seem to have the ability to observe and adopt the techniques in a very efficient manner.

Most of the great masters of painting had formal training and were taught by artists much better than them at the time. They adopted the techniques and eventually become masters themselves.

So what is the moral of this story?

Well basically, watch artists that you admire and try to mimic their techniques. I do not mean just copying their painting. But rather, watch how they use their brush, mix their paint, make decisions, and so on. These are big-picture processes that are perfectly ok to steal, as that is just the process of learning.

We are in a time where there is a wealth of information available to us. Almost too much information.

Youtube has some talented artists giving demonstrations for free (I will put together a post shortly with some Youtube artists to follow). Check out Vladimir Volegov. He has some crazy electro music to go with his painting videos.

One technique I ‘stole’ from him is filling a plastic bag with white paint and snipping a small hole in an edge to boldly squeeze crisp lines of paint onto the canvas (the way he used it was to render the reflection of a sailboat mast in the water). I have not yet even used this technique, but it is there in my head until someday I may need it.

Youtube only goes so far though. You should also check out demonstrations you can buy from artists directly (these are much higher quality than Youtube) and even in-person demonstrations.

Observe how these artists go about a painting and solve problems (they too encounter problems). See what you can adopt from them and use them for your own paintings.

Thanks for Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I appreciate it! Feel free to share with friends. If you want more painting tips, check out my Painting Academy course.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy


Dan Scott is the founder of Draw Paint Academy. He's a self-taught artist from Australia with a particular interest in landscape painting. Draw Paint Academy is run by Dan and his wife, Chontele, with the aim of helping you get the most out of the art life. You can read more on the About page.

2 comments on “The Best Way to Learn Is to Steal…”

  1. It seems your blogs pop into my inbox at the most convenient and coincidental time. I have been dwelling on the ‘great artists steal’ model for a while and have started applying it to me routine. There is a massive difference between copying and stealing. But you’re right; even the best had to learn from the best before them. Great reading and I very much look forward to seeing what I’m going to steal next! The tip of creating crisp white lines is going to get added to the collection of yet-to-be-used tidbits 🙂

    • Thanks Chloe! I think we all tend to forget even the greatest masters were also amateurs at one point in time and they too had to learn from others. The difference between them and everyone else is they picked up the techniques and applied the theory extremely efficiently and with amazing execution (they were not amateurs for long I am sure).



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