Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Photography 101

I'm in a slump. I have been going through literally thousands of photos for ideas to work from, but nothing is inspiring me. Its made me realize something that the photos do and do not do for me. When I take photos for art work reference, I am often sketching the scene, and I am smelling the hot coffee or exhaust, hearing the birds chirp or the ocean waves rolling and its the responses of all my senses that contribute to creation and form an idea in my head.
When capture something digitally, I can work from those images with very fresh memories of the location. But once those memories fade, the photos are useless to me. So I've realized I need to get out and about more - I've been too much in my house. I've gone sketching more this past week, and that has generated an idea for a new project - more on that later.

The other thing I wanted to mention about photography for painting reference is that its different from photography as art or as documenting family vacations, etc. I went to France and Italy over a decade ago and I don't have a single photo I can use as reference. I took them all as a tourist not as an artist interpreting for painting. I look for unusual cropping, light and shadow, layers, energy and movement for painting reference. I see the painting in my head and record it digitally. I literally shoot from the hip sometimes because even if the shot isn't good, it will bring to mind that image that made me click the shutter and then I can paint what is in my head.

I suggest to beginners that they don't try to paint from magazine photos or pretty calendar pictures. Those images are already art and the photographer looks for something that won't translate into paintings.

Another issue is the alterations the camera lens makes to the images our eyes see. Charles Sovek is a favorite of mine and he has some interesting lessons on his site - one about painting from photos here. Amazon has several pages of books about painting from photos and I have this one very good one, How Photography Can Make You A Better Painter by Michael Weymouth that discusses the technical aspects of HOW TO photograph specifically for painting reference. Scott Burdick also did a video lesson on using Photoshop to enhance pictures for painting. All very good resource materials.

9 comments:

Anita said...

I hate to say it but its always heartening to hear about great artists being in a slump. It makes those of us who are less able feel a little bit better about our own slumps. I've been in one myself for nearly a year now and am only just beginning to find the desire to start again.
If it's any help to you - I look at your work for inspiration!
Will take a look at the books you list here.

Geert-Jan said...

So much agree about the pile of pictures for later inspiration. It doesn't work for me either. I must have seen something live, start the painting within days and end it within a week cause it's got to do with the feeling at the moment of catching the view.

Linda Nickles said...

Robin, I am always so inspired by your beautiful art, as well as your blog. Thank you for sharing these helpful tips about using photos in painting. I have found that when using photos -- if I din't take the photo, then there is no connection. Sending you good vibes to beat the slump!

Mitzi Easley said...

hmmm... maybe it's in the austin water... i've been drawing more, splashing in watercolors, but oils... not so much. luckily these phases always have a beginning and a middle and an end. thanks for sharing robin

Kate Merriman said...

Great post and good food for thought! You should post this on Creative Block also. Can't wait to hear what the new idea is. :)

Marian Fortunati said...

All of this is soooooooooo true...

However I'm sure you'll find your inspiration soon!

rateyourart said...

It seems obvious to me that the slump or lack of inspiration is your resources.
You need more challenge, and working from photos I would say is not cutting it.
I say this with only the kindest of intentions but the source of your problem may be listening to statements like this.

“Its only by this ruthless editing that a painting done from a photograph looks like a picture that could have been done from life.”

A Painter's Journal said...

Anita - I hope your slump ends soon! And I hope mine won't last a year. eek!
RateYourArt - True - copying photos can be debilitating for an artist, but interpreting a photo is sometimes quite freeing. I do most all my work from photos. But I do work from life a lot as well. My subject matter makes it difficult to paint my scenes from life but the study I do in sketches and model sessions make me understand form and shape so that I can get accurate representation of figures, etc. But the color, light and shadow, etc. is WIDE open, despite the photo.

kees said...

Keep up the great work. Love it!

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