Wednesday, August 06, 2014

From Photo to Painting....3 Things to Do for More Expressive Paintings


'Savoring Summer'             8x10          pastel           ©Karen Margulis
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Expressive...what does it really mean? One definition of expressive is showing emotions or feelings clearly and openly...showing or expressing something. It would seem easy to be expressive when painting. I find it to be the most difficult thing of all to teach. We have to feel something about our subject in order for us to express it. That has to come from within each artist. 

There are some things we can do to make it easier to let go and be more expressive (some might call it loosen up) with our paintings. If we can go back to basics and set up a road map for our painting it is much easier to let the emotions flow into the painting.  I do 3 things before each painting to help me get into a more intuitive zone.


The reference photo and black and white thumbnail 

  • Ask yourself WHY. Look at the reference photo or scene and ask yourself why you want to paint it. How do you feel when you look at it? What do you want others to feel? Is it a mood? A color? The light? Verbalize it or write it down. You can't possibly express emotions if you don't know what they are. If you don't know why you want to paint something you probably should choose something else.
  • SIMPLIFY the subject into a few big shapes. Often we have trouble being expressive because we get caught up in details too soon. We end up trying to copy what we see in the photo rather than making it our own. By simplifying the photo into a few big shapes and creating a simple black and white thumbnail we actually have more freedom to interpret the photo and make it our own.
  • SIMPLIFY the values. After creating a thumbnail with a few big shapes, the next step is to assign each shape a value. I like to limit my values to just 4....dark, light, and two middle values. I now have a road map to my painting. I block the painting in using this roadmap. Now the color and details come but since I have already done all of the planning it is much easier to slip into 'expressive mode' and have fun with my colors and mark making.


One other thing you need to do....it helps to let go of the fear of getting it 'right'. Be fearless and play with your painting. You have to let go and feel it for it to come across in the marks you make!

I did a value underpainting with an alcohol wash and a dark Nupastel

close up of flowers
Painting Notes: Uart paper 500 grit. 8x10 with Terry Ludwig pastels and a Great American iridescent pastel. 

5 comments:

Sandi G said...

Hi Karen , thanks for this wonderful info , can you tell us where you used the iridescent pastel and what color on this painting wich is beautiful !

Maria Bennett Hock said...

Love this post...such good information that I will try to live by as I work. thanks so much for sharing.

Karen said...

Thank you!! The iridescent pastel is a great American. I used in in the greens behind the flowers. It shows up as lighter in the photo but it is actually the same value as the surrounding greens. It sparkles in the light!

June Wilson said...

Thank you for such a clear and informative demo.

Margretta S. Perry said...

I think that Rembrandt also has some irridescents.