Master Studies

  • Software:Photoshop CS6  ·

Rules of the Exercise

  • 1
    Download and open the practice worksheet for this exercise.
  • 2
    Analyze and observe previous works of arts by masters of painting, to help build an understanding of values/composition/color.
  • 3
    Submit your work for this exercise.


  This exercise challenges your analyzing skills and being able to interpret what you see and how to re-create that. Now this exercise may seem a bit difficult because you are trying to recreate a mater artist's painting. The challenge for this exercise is to look at  the extremely important fundamentals: Value, Composition, and Color. So we are going to break down two master art pieces and looking at how to analyze how they executed such brilliance and then apply that knowledge to our own digital paintings. So below are the 2 pieces each Tim and I will be analyzing, (you don't need to do the exact paintings we are doing. In fact I encourage you to do research and find an artist whose work you enjoy, and figure out why you are so compelled and drawn to it.) Below is the practice worksheet that you can download! You can find this on the "Downloads" tab under the header image near the top of this exercise! On the left hand side you should place the master's work and then do your study on the right. Exercise_37_PracticeSheet


  Not sure where to find some master studies? Check out our small collection PINTEREST BOARD OF MASTER STUDIES. Here you can find some inspiration as well as some you could work with!  Hue/Saturation/Brightness Slider - This magical box you can find when you go to Window > Color (or hit F6). I suggest changing the color from RGB to HSB, you can do this by clicking on the drop down menu on the upper right corner. I remember hearing about how much this helped a lot of digital artists at first and I blew it off. I now see the value of using this tool to help further my knowledge of understand color. H - Hue / S - Saturation / B - Brightness, pretty self explanatory, but that magic here is the percentages. H is set to 360 degress, and S/B are set from 1-100, with these numbers you can color pick from the master studies and find the numbers. I suggest writing those numbers down, on your canvas or even in a sketchbook. Take the time to see why Michelangelo used 25/37/83 for skin and 199/64/51 for the background in The Creation of Adam. You'll start to be able to see things in everyday life in value percentages, and how light can start affecting those numbers! Color Picking - Like all things color picking has its pro's and its con's. Pro's of color picking is to easily find your values create a color palette. Making sure you are paying attention to the shifts in color and asking yourself "why did they use a hint of red here?" A trap you can easily fall into with color picking however is the dreaded auto-pilot and paint mode. Not taking the time to observe the shifts and just throwing paint down is fast, but at a cost, you lose precious knowledge that you can teach to yourself! Desaturate - Often times people say to start in black and white and move to color later on. Here is why they say that, because color can get very confusing with values. This isn't going to be a paragraph on color. But instead I'll explain the value of turning your piece black and white. Instead of having to worry about Hue/Saturation of a piece, you really only need to worry about the Brightness slider. When you desaturate the picture it can really show you how strong the values are and how that master has shown his control of value. When starting in art I expected to see white EVERYWHERE! super high contrast of white and black, but as I continue to study from the masters, I'm coming to realize that, it just isn't the case. When I desature a picture now I see how much in-between in values there is, along with how to make forms more three dimensional. Everything is subtle! but remember to always start big to small. Guides/Notes - Use them! I'm not saying to grid out your pieces, but use guides of the master study to help control your placement of paint. If you notice that a slight highlight under the nose is present, make marks of that on the side of the piece you are studying from on a new layer. Don't be afraid to use photoshop's features of guidelines to help figure out if something looks slightly off, your goal here is to not make it look 100% the exact same art piece, but to study from it. If you have an eyeball that looks off, use the guideline to show yourself how to fix that, perhaps it's because the eyelid is to large? Use the guides to help line things up, but use them in moderation because you still want to see your piece when you are working on it! These studies are great ones to strengthen your understanding of art. To help understand and break down on your own how to use knowledge of the past to help create artwork for the future. So take what you learn from this exercise and apply it to all of your art!


  Tim: Below is the step by step chart that Joe and myself created and broke it down to have we went about treating the creation of each study. You can see how even though we treat the study differently we are both creating a similar end result. While creating your own, don't focus on the details. Rather focus on the shapes, values, and colors used. Remember that you are suppose to learn from a study, so ask yourself while you're creating one, "What am I learning from this?". You should be able to take what you've learned and apply that to your own original works. Whether it be the colors used on the face, or the placement of different value ranges, feel confident knowing that you were able to take away what you've learned successfully and have grown as an artist! Tim's Studies: "Mrs. Charles E. Inches" by John Singer Sargent and "Loveland Gentleman" by Richard Schmid Joe's Studies: "Two Octopi" and "Self Portrait" by John Singer Sargent Exercise_37_Results When you finish the exercise, remember to submit the result to the "Submissions" tab near the top of this exercise. You can see other submissions alongside your own!