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Maira Kalman on copying and learning

Maira Kalman is one of my favorite illustrators, so I was excited to see this short documentary about her made by a project called Portraits in Creativity. I got the link from Kottke, who ran it under the headline “Copying is my way of learning.” I actually missed that line on the first and second pass, but found it the third time through. Here’s video and a transcript of that short section:

Copying is my way of learning, and when I copied the Bernard, I realized how extraordinarily difficult it was. Of course everything that’s fantastic looks so simple, and it’s fantastic to immerse yourself in somebody else’s painting and try to do a copy of it, which I thought was, you know, not bad.

Of course it’s not unique to Maira! Copying is an essential part of learning, and really the most identifiable part for most of us. Some artists, tempted by the myth of genius, feel a stigma around talking about copying. Nice to see somebody great like Maira Kalman address it directly.