Thursday, December 07, 2006

Reference photo and watercolour painting

I have great respect for artist that chooses to create artworks how they want rather than what the purest think how it should be done. Maybe even the old masters would have been more forward with how they approached their creative work if it wasn’t for this disapproving sector of the art world.

Well I for one do paint from reference photos and want to share some of my personal ideas with you.

When developing a painting from a reference photo, aim for it to be a piece of artwork that comes from you rather than just a copy of an image. In other words be creative with what you do. In saying this though you may need to consider what a client wants, then decide if you want to go ahead with the painting if they expect a "copy" of the photo.

My observations of painting from a reference image may help those that prefer to work this way. If you have any ideas that can be of help please add them to the comments section of this topic.

  • Gain experience from Plein-air painting and learn to draw. It will give you a much better understanding of how to handle the reference photo.
  • Best if painting from own reference photo.
  • Never use a photo that has copyright.
  • Do a sketch from the photo taking note if perspective needs to be fixed, as often point and shoot cameras do distort an image. This is why you need to have some drawing experience.
  • Take note of colours when capturing the photo, as often the reference image will be different. There is no reason why you also can't be creative with colour.
  • Be aware shadows have a lot of varied colour throughout them, not a dark area of black or blue as often is the case in photos.
  • Painting from a well calibrated computer monitor is often a better experience to paint from than a printed off photo.
  • Same as Plein-air, leave out unnecessary detail.
  • Move, remove, shrink, make taller or even add a tree in a landscape to improve the overall design. Trees are not the only items to consider, as there are many changes that can be made.
  • Take many photos of the area to help remind you what it was about the scene that inspired you in the first place to create a piece of artwork. This is where digital photos are good, as there are no unnecessary developing costs if you make use of a computer monitor.
  • Don’t just copy, have fun and be creative.

Those artist that use reference images, we are in good company.

Some of the old masters that used reference photos are:
  • Edgar Degas
  • Paul Cezanne
  • Paul Gauguin
  • Vincent Van Gosh
  • Toulouse Lautrec

There maybe more and would be interested to know who they are?

Yesterdays post I said that I would post a photo and a watercolour painting from that reference material. I had a lot of fun playing around with my paints in the comfort of my studio when I painted this one.


Technorati technorati tags: , , , , , ,


Jana Bouc said...

Your paintings are spectacular. I enjoyed visiting your blog and reading some of your reference information. Very helpful stuff! I used to work only from photos, enlarging and tracing my photos or combined photos onto watercolor paper. I've since discovered the joy of plein air and drawing which, as you say, really does help improve work done from photos. Your pair of images really illustrate how to make a photo so much more with your own creativity and memories of the scene.

Susan Borgas said...

Thanks for visiting Jana. I am glad you have found some of my reference information helpful. I have ideas swimming around in my head that I want to share in the near future so hope you come back again to check them out sometime.

Doris Joa said...

Hi Susan,
I really enjoyed this post a lot. Although the photo was already great, the painting is so beautiful. Really beautiful artwork.
I enjoy your blog very much. Doris

Susan Borgas said...

Doris thanks so much. As you yourself do beautiful watercolours, I appreciate your comment.