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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Here's a Quick Way to Simplify Your Paintings

'It's a New Day' 8x10 pastel ©Karen Margulis
available by auction at Daily Paintworks here

I love to paint en plein air but I paint mostly from my photos. So I like to find ways to use the photos to create paintings that don't really look like the photos. I find that if I can simplify the photo it is easier for me to change things around and make more interesting compositions and color choices. In yesterday's post I talked about how squinting at my subject or reference photo helps me to see the big simple shapes and values. This is the most handy way to do it. But if you keep your reference photos on your computer you can manipulate them and simplify them before printing them out to paint. You don't need to be a computer whiz or even have photoshop to do this easy trick either. I like to use the free and simple to use program called PICASA.


Photo on bottom was made blurry with the soft focus feature on Picasa
Top photo shows how I drew lines around my big shapes

Picasa is a free download from Google. I have used it for years to organize, manipulate and print my photos. I use it on my PC but there is now a Picasa version for Mac. Since I haven't tried it I found a review of Picasa for Mac here. I like to download my photos to My Pictures and they automatically go to Picasa as well. It is so easy to open Picasa, find a photo and do some simple adjustments. For the photo above I made it black & white (so I could play with color) and then used the soft focus feature to blur the photo. You can blur it as much as you want. I wanted it blurry enough to remove all of the distracting details. Then all you do is click on the print button and you have options for printing. I also like that it is easy to print out multiple photos on one piece of paper.
This blurred version of my photo is perfect to use for value studies and initial block in of my painting. I can't get bogged down too quickly with details if I can't see them! The black and white version is good when you don't want the distractions of color. I did a 2x3 color study (below) to try a different color palette than my original reference photo.

2.5 x 3.5 mini color study
Of course there are many programs that allow you to manipulate your photos. I have photoshop and use it sometimes but I have found Picasa to be such an easy and fun program that I use it most often. So if you are looking for a way to be less fussy with detail, try to blur your reference photos!

1 comment:

D.Shawnte said...

Beautiful pastel work! I love the sceneries you made here!