Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Simple Way to Spice up a Boring Reference Photo

'Nantucket Dunes' 8x10 pastel ©Karen Margulis
'Nantucket Beach Dreams' 8x10 pastel ©Karen Margulis

You have a nice photo that you want to paint. But it just nice....nothing special or exciting. How can you make it have more impact? Change the horizon! Take a good look at that reference photo. Where is the horizon? If it is right in the middle than move it up or down....or do a painting with each point of view. It is usually not a good composition with the picture divided in half. You don't want equal emphasis on the sky and the land. That is boring and often the viewer isn't sure where to look first.
  • Spice things up by choosing what you want to be more important. When I look at a scene one of the first things I decide is if I want the painting to be about the sky or about what's happening on the ground. Each choice will have an entirely different mood and feeling. I like to do thumbnail sketched and try out my choices. It is challenging to break away from a literal interpretation of the photo but a simple change of horizon will open up many possibilities for a more interesting painting.
I decided to to paint two versions of my Nantucket Island Beach scene. In the top painting It is more about the dunes and grasses. The sky is softened and downplayed. In the bottom painting, I moved the horizon down so I could focus on the sky. I added more interest with some clouds and downplayed the grasses. What a fun and easy way to break free from copying a boring photo!
PS Both paintings are done on Pastelmat paper which I will be reviewing here this week so be sure to sign up for updates.

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