Copying Mamma

Ink and coloured pencil copy of Moomin Mamma image

I’m slowly catching up with Sketchbook Skool’s Boot Kamp but I’m not quite there yet. I have another assignment that I’ve not started yet and I’m expecting a new one to arrive in my inbox tomorrow. Oh well.

This is the most recent one I’ve finished. The assignment was inspired by Tommy Kane who suggests making copies of work by artists that you admire or are inspired by. Not, of course, to pass it off as your own original work, but to learn from the artist. His argument is that all artists (not just visual artists either) are by-products of the people whose work they admire.

I went to see the Turner exhibition at the Tate Britain on Monday and a tiny part of me was tempted to choose him as the artist whose work I’d copy for this assignment. I decided against that in the end and went with someone whose illustration work on first sight might appear quite simple – Tove Jansson.

As well as being a fine artist and an author, Tove Jansson illustrated her series of Moomin books. I’m currently reading her biography and am a huge fan of her and the Moomins so she seemed like a good choice for this homework.

I chose this particular drawing because as I was reading the biography I came across a description of Moominmamma and instantly recognised it because I have a postcard of the picture framed on my bookcase.

‘Berries, shells and roses surround her body with a symbolic world of fruitfulness, birth and love. The sun shines in brilliant glory behind her head… Mother is love.’ (Tove Jansson, Life, Art, Words, Boel Westin).

In copying this illustration I learned just how much detail there can be in a seemingly simple image. There are white outlines separating some of the details from what’s next to them and the background reminds me of a Matisse cut-out (Matisse was one of Tove’s favourite artists).

So, doing a straight copy of someone else’s work isn’t something I’d seriously considered doing before but it’s a really interesting exercise.

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