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Friday, July 25, 2014

How to Have Fun Painting from Reference Photos

'Wishes Do Come True'          12x12           pastel             ©Karen Margulis
painting available here $150
 Reference photos don't need to be perfect. The day I figured that out, a whole new world of painting possibilities was opened for me. Like many I always tried to find a great image to use for a painting....the composition, colors,  lighting all had to be just right. The photo had to be large and in focus. Looking back, having perfect photos actually stifled my ability to be expressive with my painting. I was all consumed with copying the photo...exactly. It often resulted in a stiff and boring painting.

I don't search for the perfect reference photo anymore. I am FREE!  I prefer blurry photos with washed out color. I am free to move things around, change colors, add and take away elements to make a better painting. It is so liberating.

Today I tried something with reference photos that really allowed me to have fun and reach inside my own imagination to create the painting. I combined two unrelated photos. Give it a try for your next painting! Here are some tips:

The reference photos I used for my paintings. Thank you to my  friend for the photo!

'Dandelion Wishes'           6x6         pastel  sold

 I wanted to use a photo that a friend shared with me.  I usually work only from my own photos but I loved the feel of the meadow with the distant mountain. To make it my 'own' I printed out one of my dandelion photos from Iceland. I loved the  light in the dandelion picture and I imagined what the painting would be like as a field of dandelion puffs rather than the daisies in the first photo. I put the two ideas together.
  • Choose elements in the photo that you want to keep and choose elements from the second photo that you wish to add. I liked the distant trees and mountain in the first image so I expanded these and added the dandelion puffs.
  • Pay attention to light source and direction of light and shadows whenever you are making changes. You can change the time of day/lighting just make sure you are consistent and that it makes sense. Ask yourself "Where is the light source? Are my shadows going in the right direction? Does this element look like it is in the same place or does it look out of place?" 
  • Rely on your imagination and your experiences to tie your images together. You don't need to copy something to say something...Use your own Words!

Painting notes: Both paintings done on gray Pastelmat paper with a selection of soft pastels, mostly Terry Ludwigs and Great Americans. No underpainting.


karl smith said...

Thanks for the info on the paper and underpainting Karen! It is much appreciated and very useful for those of us just getting into paste painting.

Anonymous said...

This turned out great. I always appreciate your thought process and just going for it.

Anonymous said...

Painting from blurry photo is quite easier than the one with all the sharpness. If the photo you are going to paint is quite blurred or not that clear then you don't have to bother about detailing and all. I loved this painting and your post.