|'At the Edge of Forever' 11x14 pastel ©Karen Margulis|
I'm not sure what possessed me to use this reference photo. It was a bad reference photo. It was beyond bad. It was downright terrible. It was underexposed. It had so little color it might as well have been black and white. There were several bushes and tree limbs in awkward places and a jumble of docks and boardwalks. I couldn't make heads or tails of them and without my glasses I couldn't even see them.
I decided that the photo is so bad it is good. It is actually a great reference photo if you have a different attitude towards reference photos. I actually prefer bad photos. Bad photos free me to interpret the scene in my own way. I can only improve upon it!
There are two important considerations when using poor reference photos:
- The photo needs to have good bones. It has to have some possibilities. I ask myself if the photo has good shapes? Interesting arrangement of shapes? Interesting color? Is there enough information for me to use even if I have to change some things? And am I comfortable making the changes?
- The photo has to be mine. If it is mine then I am able able to recall the moment the photo was taken. I can call up all of my senses and use my memories to infuse my painting with authenticity.
Take today's bad photo. It is my photo. I very clearly remember the place and time I took this photo. It was a special week in a wonderful place with my best friends. We were only at this spot for an hour but I remember it as if it was today.
Since I can recall it so vividly I am able to make the changes to the photo to better reflect my memories. It was a bit chilly and overcast but bright at the same time. I remember the trees dripping with moss. They had layers of subtle but beautiful colors. The docks and boardwalks are not important. I remember the trees and their colors and reflections. Here is how I went about interpreting the photo:
|The underpainting done with a turpenoid wash on Uart paper|
Once the underpainting was dry I began with the pastel, darks first then the sky and water and then the trees. I spent time working on the negative spaces in the trees trying to give them interesting shapes.
Have a look at your reference photos....don't throw away the bad ones. Spend some quiet time recalling the moment....paint that moment!