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Saturday, January 09, 2016

Don't Do This if You want a Successful Painting

'Under a Spell'          5x7      oil on panel      ©Karen Margulis
available $75
It's tempting. You have a great reference photo. Everything about it is perfect and it screams out to be painted. But it isn't your own photo.....and you have never painted anything like it. You aren't even sure how you would go about tackling it.  Should you use it?  Not of you want a better chance at a successful painting. Don't do it!

Paint what you know and love if you want your paintings to speak.

Your voice is an important part of the process. Using reference material from someone else is like trying to use their voice. It's possible to make a good painting from it but it will most likely be missing the special quality that is your voice. And it is much more challenging to interpret someone else's material and make it your own. Even when you use your own photos you need to make sure to choose something that you know well. (and has good bones for a painting which is another post!)

close-up detail
 I have written about this before but I had a big AHA Moment about reference material today. I was trying to decide what to paint and I was looking through my photos. They are all mine so that's a plus. But some of the photos were things I wasn't really interested in or didn't have experience with.This is fine when I am up for a challenge but since I am trying to learn a new medium that is one challenge I don't need.

'Under a Spell 2'    5x7 pastel    $75

Choosing subjects that I know and have painted before allows me to concentrate on other things such as the handling of a brush and mixing paint! So today I selected some poppy images that I have painted before. I had already worked out design, values and colors. It made the painting process easier and more fun. And I had a better chance of having a successful painting.

My box of wildflower photos and sketches
TIP: If you are trying a new medium OR you are new to painting....choose things to paint that you know and love. Painting things you've painted before will simplify the learning process and lead to more success.


Elizabeth said...

I'm learning so much. Thank you! Karen, how do you get the - I guess I'll call it variegated - look on the petals in the oil painting. It looks almost like you combed through the wet paint. Double load your brush? Dry brush over the top? It looks so cool.

robertsloan2art said...

I think you're saying, make it one experiment at a time. New paper, new subject, new materials, control everything else by turning to what's familiar and practiced. Makes sense to me.

I have more practice with others' photos than my own due to my circumstances. Usually housebound, I got used to painting places I'd never get to go in life. I belong to an art community with photo sharing. Friends worldwide share their photos and holiday photos. I'd never be able to afford those trips as trips and sometimes couldn't physically manage the climb or climate, so I got used to working with others. What's interesting is that it also got me in the habit of altering the photos dramatically, cropping and simplifying, not just going with what's in the photo.

Of course I'm also specifically working toward being able to paint from imagination too and when I do that I'm going for "visual fiction" rather than just a durable copy of the photo.

Karen said...

Thanks Elizabeth, I didn't do anything special. I just built up the layers with different shades of red. I think it was the slick surface that gives the look of texture for some reason!

Karen said...

Thanks for the comments Rob. I always enjoy your insight!!

Krista Leśniewska said...

Poppies are my favourite flowers too, I love them :)Krista