Copy that

I think copying someone’s work is the fastest way to learn certain things about drawing and line.  It’s funny how there is such a taboo against it. I learned everything from just copying other people’s work.*
(Lynda Barry)

How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?**

Austin Kleon reminds me that I have learned so much towards developing my own values and creativity through copying.

My doodling began in this way, my development of illustration, too – I have copied Quentin Blake‘s illustrations from Roald Dahl’s The BFG and Danny the Champion of the World.

I also read Dahl’s book to gain a sense of how he shaped stories. I read many kinds of book, trying to learn from different styles of writing:

Copy out things that you really love. Any book. Put the quotation marks around it, put the date that you’re doing the copying out, and then copy it out. You’ll find that you just soak into that prose, and you’ll find that the comma means something, that it’s there for a reason, and that that adjective is there for a reason, because the copying out, the handwriting, the becoming an apprentice—or in a way, a servant—to that passage in the book makes you see things in it that you wouldn’t see if you just moved your eyes over it, or even if you typed it.^

And then there are all the ideas to copy, to play with, to connect with others and turn into something else.

I see all of these as conversations I am having. I listen to someone, I journal out their ideas alongside others, I post them here. First of all, these are conversations with myself. It’s how I find myself. It’s how we find ourselves. It’s a place on a journey to somewhere else.

There’s something in these copying-conversations that is about faithfulness. Faithfully copying and trying out words and shapes and ideas and habits that others have to share with me requires humility and gratitude on my part – the most sure way of discovering myself and appreciating and valuing others.

It makes every face-to-face conversation we have a potential smorgasbord of discovery.

(*Lynda Barry, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: Copying is How We Learn.)
(**Meno, quoted in Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost.)
(^Nicholson Baker, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: Copying is How We Learn.)

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