Painting Basics TRACK: Lesson 1, Mastercopies


Choose a painting from art history or contemporary art and create a mastercopy of that painting.

We recommend choosing a painting that is very different from how you usually paint so you can expand on your painting vocabulary.

Sargent: Lady Agnew
Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, John Singer Sargent

Try to use the same paint medium used in the original painting. Example: use watercolor to make a mastercopy of a watercolor painting by Winslow Homer.

It’s okay to use a different paint media, but try to match a paint media that is similar. For example, it’s fine to do an acrylic mastercopy of an oil painting. Whereas doing a gouache painting of an oil painting with lots of thick paint isn’t a very good fit.

Watercolor Painting, Winslow Homer
Boys in a Dory, Winslow Homer

Recommended media

Any paint medium: watercolor, gouache, acryl gouache, oils, water mixable oils, acrylics. We recommend using the same paint medium for the entire track.

Rembrandt Self-Portrait
Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, 1659
Rembrandt Self-Portrait Mastercopy, Cat Huang
Mastercopy by Cat Huang


The accuracy of your mastercopy isn’t your goal, in fact, your mastercopy might look really crummy, which is fine! Your goal is to get into the artist’s head by analyzing, breaking down, and understanding the artist’s painting technique.

If you see a single brush stroke that was visibly done in 1 stroke, try to replicate that experience! Painting a single brush stroke with 20 strokes to maintain accuracy isn’t the purpose of this assignment, so throw out any desire to create a perfect copy.

Image resources

Google Arts & Culture, Artsy, The Met, The Getty, Smarthistory

painting recommendations, Landscape

Winslow Homer, Edgar Alwin Payne, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
John Constable, Maxfield Parrish, Antonio López García, Michael Mazur, Bunny Harvey

painting recommendations, Still life

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, William Merritt Chase, Antoine Vollon, Giorgio Morandi, Kathleen Speranza, Wayne Thiebeaud, Paul Cezanne


Jordan Casteel, Dana Schutz, Jenny Saville, Eric Fischl, Lucien Freud, Diego Velázquez, Brad Holland, Norman Rockwell, Kadir Nelson, Paula Rego, John Singer Sargent

Painting a Mastercopy

Copying a painting is a great exercise to develop your painting skills and analyze the techniques used in great paintings. In this video we demonstrates how to make a mastercopy in Procreate.

This video shows step by step process how start one and provides reasons for what you can learn and gain from this exercise. Demo by Teaching Artists Jordan McCracken-Foster and Deepti Menon.

This video uses Procreate, but fundamental process and reasoning for a mastercopy is the same, regardless of the medium.

Mastercopies: Tips for Drawing

Creating a mastercopy of a historical drawing is an effective exercise for honing your drawing skills. This video is a hands on demo that provides tips for how to get started with a mastercopy.

The discussion in this video provides insight into the value doing a mastercopy can have to advance and strengthen your drawing skills. Demo by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artist Jordan McCracken-Foster.

This video uses ballpoint pen, but the fundamental process and reasoning for a mastercopy is the same, regardless of the medium.

Show us what you make!

Mixed Media Acrylic Painting, Lauryn, banner