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Wednesday, September 07, 2016

A Tip for Painting From Reference Photos

'Friendship Meadow'           12x18       pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $175
I love painting from my photos. Plein air is great and it is important for growth and learning how to really see the landscape. But I like the comfort of my studio most of the time. So I rely a lot on my reference photos. There are many tips I can share for success when painting from photos but I will share one of my favorites here today.


So often we get caught up in the details in a photo. It is all too easy to copy what is there without thinking. But do we really need that road in the distance or that branch or that garbage can?  We don't need to put something in the painting just because it is there. We only need it if it helps support our idea and composition. Taking time to edit the photo and eliminate the unnecessary will result in a stronger painting.

my thumbnail

You can see my reference photo below. It has many issues which would result in a bad painting if I copied it as is.  There are a couple of things that I immediately see the need to change.  I see a road and road sign in the distance. Does the painting really need this road? Does it work in my composition? Does it support my concept?  If I am not sure I simply put my thumb over the area. Usually this helps me see if I miss it. In this case the road is not necessary so I will leave it out.

The other issue that I see is the steep angle of the field. I find that it pulls my eye down and off the paper. I will need to change the angle of the field so that my eye stays in the painting. This isn't an issue of clutter but it jumped out at me when I evaluated the photo.

my reference photo
The finished painting is better because of these two small changes. Take a few minutes to evaluate and eliminate clutter before you start painting. It will save you time and result in a more thoughtful and personal painting.

1 comment:

MtnLady said...

Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I am pretty literal and just a beginner and so I would have attempted to include the road, the sign and the slope without realizing that there could be another approach to it! So much to learn and I appreciate your videos!