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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Studio Tip for Organizing Reference Photos


'A Quiet Spot'               11x14               pastel                ©Karen Margulis
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 It's time to get organized!  Being organized allows me more time to paint. One of the things in my studio that is in need of organizing is my stacks of reference photos. I print out my photos on copy paper and file them by subject in a photo box. But they get messy so quickly and I never want to take the time to file the photos I have taken out. By the end of the year (yes I let it go for a year!) I have piles and piles of photos ...too many to go through. It  makes it hard to decide what to paint and I waste so mush time mindlessly flipping through photos.

This year I am starting a new system. I prefer using small 3x5 and 2x3 photos that I print myself on cheap inkjet paper.  These little photos were too small for my big box and they were getting lost.  I was thrilled to find small plastic document envelopes by a company called Doc-it.  They are perfect for organizing small photos. The envelopes measure 5x7 and come in clear colors. Mine have a string tie but one of my students found them with snaps. They also come with a label though I just use a piece of artists tape for my labels.


I found my envelopes in my local grocery store. Here is a link to a source online

These envelopes are inexpensive (under $1) so I can have one for all of my favorite subjects. I will be filing these plastic envelopes in a box with cardboard tabs with the subject category. I'll share a photo when I get to this point.  This system will allow me to narrow down my painting ideas without being overwhelmed by too many choices.

Question for you:  Do you use paper photos or do you paint from a tablet, phone or computer? There is a great discussion on this subject on the Pastel Society of America's Facebook Page. Head over to Facebook to read all the opinions and advice. If you are on Facebook I'd love for you  to 'like' my art page. You can like my page right here on the blog...look for the like box on the right!


Painting notes: I used my planning sheet to decide on the format and design of this painting. It is on Uart 500 with an alcohol wash. I used a variety of Terry Ludwig pastels.

3 comments:

robertsloan2art said...

Oh, this is a good idea for those who do printouts and keep printouts. I can see it's a great filing system.

I gave up using printouts of anything more than a decade ago for logistic reasons because I moved too often. I'd lose all my stuff or I'd get sick and boxes of paper got moldy. So I went paperless. From there it was easiest to work directly from my laptop screen or my Kindle.

When it's my own photo the Kindle has better color and is handy, but a little harder to find what I want. What I do inside my computer is past a certain point have a filing system, especially for refs I download from WetCanvas or get given by friends. I put where it's from in the file name, because some references can't be used directly.

My other source of references is that I'm getting good enough at sketching to treat my sketchbooks as reference sources. Once the sketch is done and it would be a sound plan for a painting, what do I need a photo for?

Enough sketching of a familiar subject and you can compose a painting without using a reference photo at all. But that takes practice most of all. I'm preparing for this summer's zoo trip by going to start sketching big cats from nature documentaries without pausing them. I won't have time enough to draw them in enough detail frame to frame to violate copyright, but if I get there and the lion's walking around I may be able to capture the gist of his gesture even though he's not holding still. Animals without spots may be a good start, though spotting patterns are something I could take from any photo without violating capyright. It's more important to learn the consistent similarities in a pattern than to count spots and get that individual cheetah or leopard.

Adriana Guidi said...

I love your idea Karen! I started out with boxes years ago,and like you it got confusing and messy with the photos falling,etc. Now I get cheapy binders at the Dollar Tree and some plastic sleeves and I place my photos in those and label them by subject..food,animals,etc.using those subject tabs for binders.(also available at the dollar stores.

Karen said...

Thanks Rob! Sketching is something I need to do more often!!

Adriana, I love Dollar Tree. I'll have to go check out the binders and plastic sleeves. Thanks for sharing!