Copy the work of others

Many people celebrate the work of Pablo Picasso. But they often overlook the process that contributed to make him the genius we all know and appreciate today.

At the age of 16, Picasso was living in Madrid. He would spend long periods of time at the Prado museum. Admiring and copying the works of great artists that came before him. Like Goya and Velásquez. His story is akin to the ones told about Beethoven and Benjamin Franklin. The latter would transcribe passages from his favourite writers. And often tried to emulate their style, so as to improve his own.

The process of copying and reflecting on the work of people with more experience, enables us to get acquainted with new patterns.

Whenever you want to learn a new skill or improve on existing ones, realise that there is, or has been someone out there with more experience than you. Someone you can learn from. There is no shame in copying the work of others when our goal is to learn.

a. Do not try to be original. Originality comes from experience and materializes naturally as we acquire enough building blocks.

Jumping and attempting to create something of our own before having the tools to do so, can only take us so far. To chop down a tree, we must first sharpen the axe.

With enough experience and vocabulary, we can go on to create work that is original and that improves on the work of others.

In a nutshell:

  1. Find a piece of work you want to emulate.
  2. Try to copy it, making it resemble the original.
  3. While doing so, close your eyes and try to visualize each step of the process. This part is important because this is what enables the learning to take place.

Only you know who you can be