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Thursday, February 02, 2017

A Tip for Working From Reference Photos

'Just Add Green'             9x12        pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $125
I have over 50,000 photos on my computer. They are all mine. I love taking photos almost as much as I love to paint. So I only use my own photos when I paint. I have plenty to choose from. When I am looking for inspiration I will scroll through my folders until something speaks to me. It could be a marsh...it could be a desert or maybe a flower. I then choose a few more and print them out on one piece of paper. I make the photos contact sheet size (about 2x3). I cut them amoart and use these photos as inspiration.

No I don't use an iPad or tablet or computer screen to view my photos. I prefer my badly printed tiny photos. I don't want to see every detail in bright glorious color. Instead I want the freedom to interpret the photo. I can't see details only big shapes in my photos. That allows me to use the photo to transport me back to the place and time. I can then put my memories to work to help me interpret the photo.

TIP: Whether you work from tiny photos or big ones on a tablet it is important to analyze the photo before you start painting. Study the photo and look for things that can be eliminated or changed. Look for things that aren't true to life but are just the result of the camera. Make notes. Don't be a slave to your photo instead let it gently guide you.

my reference photo
I used the photo above for today's painting. Here are some of the things I changed.

  • The sky is overexposed so I added more color to the painting and made it a soft blue sky of a slightly overcast day.
  • I changed the colors in the grass to give more depth. In the photo it is all the same color and value. I changed it and exaggerated a change of colors to add depth to the scene.
  • I changed the flow of the creek to direct the viewer into the distance.
  • I changed the distant buildings and added a few tiny suggestions of houses in the distance.
  • The flowering bush was great but I spread it around a bit so it wouldn't be so isolated.


Anonymous said...

I just love it, Karen!

robertsloan2art said...

And you added the foreground bush, shaped it very differently. A photo is a starting point, an idea that prompts memories. Color in photos is never true anyway.

There are times though, where just looking at my pastels will make me remember things I wanted to paint. That's when I'm glad I took a photo on the spot. I look at things every time I go out and the photos are always a disappointment compared to what I saw - but I want the broad shapes and the memory stimulus.

They do help quite a bit with anatomy, mostly on animals, sometimes shapes on buildings and also plants and trees. For a while I was also using them to record stones and rock formations but after a while I'm familiar with those things. The more life drawing I do of a subject, the easier it is to just add that thing into a photo reference when painting. I could add cats to anything now!