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Thursday, February 06, 2014

How to Get More Mileage from Reference Photos

'Big Blue'           12 x 12        pastel       ©Karen Margulis
available in my etsy shop $175
It is so simple. I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner. Why can't I remember to do it more often! It is a simple way to make one photo into many paintings!  

Use white artist tape to mask your subject

I saw Desmond O'Hagan tape his photo at his IAPS demo.  I thought it was a great idea but forgot to try it myself. It worked perfectly for my Great Blue Heron painting. I wanted a square format and decided I wanted to focus on the heron's head. I couldn't fit his long body on the paper without making him too small.  The tape idea was perfect.

My subject masked with white artist tape
Imagine the possibilities!  Often we have photos that have several areas of interest. When we try to put all the goodies in one painting it often fails. It is usually better to make several paintings instead of one that is overloaded with information. Taping your focus area will help remind you what the painting is about.

Sometimes a photo will have small gems hidden in an otherwise boring or cluttered photo. Desmond was painting a very busy city street scene. Instead of painting the whole photo he masked off a smaller area which was much more interesting than the entire photo.

Taping a small area of a photo gives you the added bonus of simplification! You can't fuss over details that you can't really see.

  • I use white artist tape because it is easy to remove without damaging my photo.
Today's painting is 12x12 on Uart with no underpainting or block-in. I used mostly Terry Ludwig and Diane Townsend pastels.


Sergio DS said...

Simple but it works.

David Greer said...

Beautiful painting, and what a great idea, one of those forehead-slapping, "Gosh, why didn't I think of that?" epiphanies.

Thank you for noting paper and pastel used, a huge help for beginners. Judging from the texture of the applied pastel, the paper seems to be on the high end of the Uart grit scale. If you could add what grit you use (and exploring the notion of grit--why use one grit over another--could be another blog post!) we who worship you from afar would appreciate it!

Karen said...

Thanks Sergio and David!
I appreciate your comments. I wlll add the grit I use to my painting info. I usually use 400-600. This one is on 500.
Great idea for a blog post! Thanks!

robertsloan2art said...

This is great. Some photos have multiple good crops possible for them depending on shape and size. I'm glad you wrote this one. Love the heron's head too!

Sher Nasser said...

Thank you, I knew this and forgot. Will try. The painting is beautiful.

Tim Moore said...

good idea using the tape..is it better than the blue tape?...i also use an old mat i have around..move it around on my computer monitor until i find what ti want then tape it to the outside..kind of like a little viewfinder?..anyway works for me...