Wednesday, December 1, 2010

a good photo problem

Today I used a reference photo that looked very much like this painting. And once again, I am reminded that though I am interpreting the scene and making it my own, it isn't as challenging or interesting to me as painting from either a really bad photo, a compilation of photos, or from no physical reference at all. Note: I left plein air painting out of this comparison because it is a completely different experience.


  1. When the photo is good does it encourage more exact translating into the painting? More realism, less dreaminess? More detail, less loose blending of fog and fuzz and magic?

    I just discovered that when one of my paintings is not working, I try to "fix" it with MORE detail. Then, it's hopelessly ruined. I need to write myself a reminder: NEVER EXPLAIN WHAT CAN BE HINTED AT. Or something like that!

  2. EXACTLY Katherine! I think you have clarified my thinking for me before. I should run all my text past you before posting. Thank you! Never explain what can be hinted at, never explain what can be hinted at...

  3. Hi Barbara, First, this is a beautiful, soulful painting. Brava!
    Second, I agree, good photos are a curse. Since what we seek to create is a painting with feeling, one needs to dig deeper inside. Photos can't do that. All one can find there is description...detail. You and Kvan both have it right.
    The power of memory/experience helps more than a photo ever could. And it does so in a different way than plein air painting does.

    Once again..this painting is GORGEOUS!

    cheers! Loriann

  4. Loriann, every day I get your posts and marvel at how hard-working and thoughtful you are. I have to admit that I can't think that much. My method is to stand there and paint with an idea in mind and be sort of surprised in the end. Good photos just confuse me. Thank you for your wisdom and support!

  5. what you're saying makes sense, and makes me think of a magazine article I read- the guy said he works from a group of pictures, maybe different views or different lights but with the same feel, and then he sets them up as a slideshow and works from that! it's not something I can use right now, but sounds like something that might be a lot of fun in situations like this.

    even though I think it is a lovely painting :)

  6. I came across your site! It inspired me to see past what is in front of me. Do you use a underpainting? What is some of your favorite paper to use?
    The artist within me, is tight. Even with color pencil/watercolor/pastels. Any help, are is it just me. Thanks

  7. Hello Sandra, If you look around the older posts on this journal, you'll see my underpaintings in acrylic, oil, watercolor and see some of the surfaces I've used (Wallis, handmade). An underpainting might help you loosen up. Good luck!