What is it?
In regards to art, a study is something that is drawn, painted, or sculpted as preparation for a larger or more finished piece. It may sound pretty similar to a “sketch,” but there is a difference. Sketches allow the artist to plot out in broad strokes the general composition of a piece, with very little detail or precision. If we compare creating a painting to composing written prose, sketches would be comparable to initial bullet points jotted down by the writer. In order to better organize thoughts, play with ideas, and get a glimpse of how things might fit together, the writer moves on to a rough draft–more complete, though with parts unfinished or perhaps a few different angles being tried as an approach to a topic. Such is the study for an artist. It serves as a “rough draft” for them to quickly get a glimpse of how their work might come together, whether their initial ideas for color or composition actually do end up working nicely, and even as a way to discover new things about the subject before the finalized piece is begun. The study might not necessarily even end up looking like the finalized piece will, but may just function as visual notes to help an artist work out how best to portray the subject. Simply put, a study is practice.
Examples from art history:
Studies in art can be traced back as far as the Italian Renaissance, with studies completed by artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo still surviving today. Leonardo da Vinci was particularly known for studies, usually of human and animal anatomy, in his famous sketchbooks, but he also created studies to help him plan out large paintings as well:
As you can see, da Vinci ended up changing aspects of the composition between the study and the finished work, though you can certainly see that the former is a visual thought process to aid in the completion of the latter. Many, many, many other artists went on to create studies in addition to their more “finished” works. (In fact, studies ended up inspiring some of the 20th century’s art movements, which focused more on the art of the process than on finished results.) Here are a few great examples:
Examples from Principle Gallery:
Here at the gallery, we deal mostly with the more finished works of our artists. We do absolutely love, however, when we get a chance to see sketches and studies and get that little peek into the artist’s creative process. We are beyond thrilled about the works included in the upcoming solo exhibition for Jeremy Mann, whose large cityscapes and figurative works are a magical adventure in light, values, color, and unique mark making. For this solo exhibition, though, we’re also pleased to announce that we’ll have over 15 studies by Jeremy on display and for sale as well! Here is just a sneak peek….to get on our list to view all the works as soon as the digital preview is available, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!