Students from the Queensland College of Art have recreated some of Australia’s greatest masterpieces thanks to an exclusive opportunity at the Queensland Art Gallery.

As part of the galleries’ public art program, students had the chance to practice an age-old technique – learning through copying iconic works of art.

On any given day at the world’s biggest galleries, there are dozens of artists with their easels pitched in front of a masterpiece, brushes at the ready. Members of the public are able to watch an alternate version of famous works being created before their eyes, and the copyists receive valuable insights into the artists’ technique.

Queensland College of Art students explored works in the gallery’s famed Australian Collection. Bachelor of Fine Art student Warren Rigby chose to recreate Albert Tucker’s iconic 1941 oil painting, “Fisherman’s Bend” – an experience the mature age student and former tattoo artist describes as “inspirational”.

“It’s a very humbling experience,” he said.

“You spend time in front of the painting, and you start to understand what’s in it – how the artist approached the work, the people in it, the historical context.

“I used the painting as a jumping off point for my own interpretation, but it gives you that deeper connection to the work and the artist.”

Warren said the experience also allowed visitors to the gallery to watch artists interpret the collection.

“It was really interesting – some people came up for a chat, others were happy to stand back and observe us at work,” he said.

“I think it deepens the experience for people visiting the gallery, and they come away with a different perspective on the collection.”

Warren has spent the past three decades as a tattoo artist, building up a thriving family business that now employs his son. He has jumped into the world of fine art as a mature age student, and is embracing all of the opportunities that come his way at the QCA.

“I’m totally committed, and I’ve learned so much already,” he said.

“As a mature age student, I think I was in the right headspace to jump in and embrace the whole experience.”

Queensland College of Art senior lecturer in Fine Art, Dr Bill Platz, said the successful pilot program at the Queensland Art Gallery was just one of the many industry partnerships that allowed students to gain hands-on experience while they studied.

“Copyist programs are a fantastic way for our students to learn by doing, and this is a first for us and QAGOMA,” he said.

“The students had a great time, and we have a waitlist for the next session in July.

“We’re hoping to expand it out into the whole collection at the QAGOMA, and build it into our curriculum.”

Dr Platz said the partnership with the Queensland Art Gallery also gave students an opportunity to develop professional networks within the state’s largest art institution.

“It’s a great chance for our students to get to know the public programs team at the state gallery, and develop their professional practice,” he said.

“These big institutions can be intimidating, even for students, so it’s important that they feel at home there.

“These are our spaces for artists, they shouldn’t be ivory towers.”