Friday, March 28, 2008

Painting from Photographs

I am working on a larger city scene - or 2 or 3 - but specifically trying to fix my overhead umbrellas view which I still believe in. I was surfing last night to find some overhead crosswalk images in the city. I think that dimension will much improve my scene, but I didn't have the right photo. Anyway, I have nothing to post, but I found some amazing photos on Flikr, which led me to this photographer, John Fraissinet.

Now, as a note, this was just research to see how the crosswalks in NYC are painted. I only use my own photos to paint from. First, I have to have the connection to scene. Obviously there is something that sparked my interest in the first place and I have a mental image of the painting to be as a result. I have ownership in more way than one. Second, I look for different qualities for painting purposes. Generally, my photos would not make good art in and of themselves.


As an example, here is one of my photos which inspired a recent painting:



I found this interesting article not long ago (Fogonazos.blogsot.com) on the masters use of photography. Generally, the assumption is that the early impressionists relied only on observation and life drawing to paint from, but there is evidence that they were also excited about the prospects that photography had to impact their craft.

I obviously paint from photos and sometimes I feel like I must hide that fact in an age when plein air and painting from life seem to dominate the representational art scene nowadays. But, as a reminder for all those who might also turn to photos to help them create art, photos are a starting place only. As we all know they tend to mass the darks and lights and lose a lot of interesting color and dimension. I continue to study the human figure from life. I do a lot of sketching in cafes. I rely on my memory of the scene and my education to take the flat photo to an impressionistic scene full of life and movement. I hope so anyway!

5 comments:

Dawn G Lundquist said...

Thanks for your comments on painting from photographs.I was very enlightening. about massing the darks and lights. I used to feel I had to hide the fact that I used photographs as you do.. sometimes the worse the photo the better the painting ,as I have to rely on my knowledge of composition and memory of the scene. I really liked the painting that you created from that photo.

Don Barnes said...

Hi Robin. I've been receiving your newsletter for quite a while now and love your work. I had always understood that you worked from photos, getting outdoors occasionally. As a fellow artist, I paint outdoors because I enjoy it. My studio is smallish and darker than I'd like, so I take a hike.

From my perspective, painting from photos is fine, so long is it doesnt exclude getting outdoors. The problems I might recognize, you already take caution to address in your work. For the painter working from photographs, I think it's important to get into the field often, though, to keep the eye fresh. Otherwise, we can lose the awareness that cameras distort shapes, colors, values, etc.

With this in mind, some viewers today are accustomed to seeing artistically manipulated images, in magazines and on billboards, so the plein air piece can look odd. To them, work painted from photos is more readable than work painted from life. So, I think there are advantages to both. Either way, I still like your work.

n. rhodes harper said...

I don't know what I would do without photos to paint from. I certainly can't imagine my self plein air painting all day in my pajama's! I love the computer for changing the photos appearance in different ways, it gives me new inspiration to paint from. I think there are many of us out there. I really like your work. I am jealous that you can sign your paintings Cheers. How cool is that!

Robin Cheers said...

These are great comments. I totally agree that one must get out and experience and study life so as to bring that "realness" to painting.

I take these overhead shots from a balcony at the Driskill, and I have stood there and sketched too. But people sure move quickly, esp. crossing a busy intersection!

Terry Rafferty said...

Another point about painting from photos: Its still really really easy to make a bad painting from a photo - the pitfalls are different from working from life, but require just as much work and knowledge to deal with! I try to do it all - purely from life, sometimes directly from a photo or multiple photos, and when I can, as with a small still life set-up, use both to get the best of both points of view. The point is to do what we love (paint) and to do it in a way that brings us pleasure and hopefully results in a good painting....

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