The influence of other artists, their aesthetics, style and their
historical origin has an impact on the way we learn in Art. You might
want to investigate Disciplined Based Art Education (DBAE), which offers
4 integral disciplines to art learning.
Copying dead artists is a poor definition of understanding of this
process. None of us create from a vacuum, we have all been influenced
by everything which has preceded us, and which happens arounds us.
As art educators using DBAE we can motivate our student learners by
introducing them to other artists, both past (dead... as you put it) and
contemporary, their aesthetics, style, technique and the historical
period they lived and the period of art which they created within. All
this provides a context from where students may learn and create.
For instance, right now I am in the process of teaching a summer youth
group. We are creating an architectural installation in stained glass
for a local community center.
I started out with the students by motivating them with visiting a local
museum. We investigated the work of artists, Stuart Davis and Romare
Bearden. looking at the elements of design and collage in a composition.
I then showed slides of Matisse's Cut Outs and stained glass windows
directly influenced by his Cut Outs.
We then used a design technique and process of collage/ cut outs... cut
and paste to design the maquettes for our windows. It was the first
time I have approached designing stained glass windows like this. So I
have become as much a learner too.
Our designs are inspired by the aesthetics and technique of Matisse,
Davis and Bearden but 'do not copy' their work.
Right now we are half way through the program and the students have
really accomplished alot. 2 of the 4 panels (1 4'x7' window of the 2
windows) are now complete. It has been great fun to see these small
collages (maquettes) conveyed out into large stained glass windows.
I hope this helps you get a better understanding of one appraoch of
looking at other artists to motivate an art making experience.