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Saturday, September 07, 2013

Artist Photo Tip #2 Breaking Free of Photos

'Way Out West'       5x7         pastel        ©Karen Margulis
It is easy to stop relying on reference photos when you lose them.  That's what I discovered today.  I am slowly going through a pile of unfinished underpaintings trying to use the paper or finish the painting.  I found a set of three interesting watercolor underpaintings. But no reference photo. The reference is long gone. In fact I have no idea what these paintings were supposed to be.

The underpaintings were cool though.  I am on a 'stop relying so heavily on reference photos' kick lately. In fact this will be a big focus of my Fall pastel classes.  So why did I really need a reference photo to finish these paintings?  Why not rely on my imagination and memory?

Sounds reasonable but maybe just a peek at a photo. Just to give me a general direction.  Then I will put the photo aside and draw on my memory and experiences.

watercolor underpaintings of who knows what!

So I chose to begin with the underpainting on the top right. It could be trees in a field. Or how about a big green shrub. How about a shrub in the desert? Now I was getting somewhere. I went through a recent pile of contact sheet photos and found one from my Southwest trip.  I studied it for a minute and put it back.

Getting to work I let the underpainting guide me.  The painting somehow became a mixture of my idea of a desert shrub influenced by the red rock cliffs in the photo. Most of it from my memory. That was fun!  Now on to the next one.

Want to join me?  Here is a suggestion. Take out some watercolors and paint some underpaintings. You can use reference photos but after doing the underpaintings....put them away...lose them!  Now paint solely from your memory. Or let the underpainting guide you. What does it suggest? Go with it and have some fun!

This is post #2 in an ongoing series of using reference photos. See the first post on storing photos here.

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