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Friday, January 31, 2014

The Secret to a Good Painting

'Winter Morning III'          6x6         pastel           ©Karen Margulis
 The Secret to a good painting is a bad photo

That might be an over-simplification but a bad reference photo can actually free you up and allow you to be more expressive.  After all you won't want to copy a bad can only make it into a better painting!

This is great news for us artists who are not photographers. We don't need to get the perfect shot. We only need photos as Memory Joggers. In yesterday's post I wrote about how I use reference photos. click here to read.  My secret is to work ONLY from my own photos.

So often I hear artists say they don't have any of their own photos. So they use magazine images (not a good idea) or royalty-free images. Both of these solutions aren't as good as using your own photos. If you didn't take the photo then you can't replay the scene in your mind.

Everyone can take a good reference photo....because it doesn't have to be perfect!

'Winter Morning IV'         6x6       pastel
Think of reference photos as snippets of information that can inspire a painting. Maybe it is a color or the light and shadow pattern or maybe an interesting tree. Snap a photo. It can be used in a painting. Here are some tips:

  • Smartphone camera:Any camera will do. In fact I most often use my iphone camera. If you have a smartphone, get to know it's camera. It is usually always handy for a quick photo.
  • Cheap Digital camera: If you don't have a smartphone get a small digital camera and keep in in your bag/purse/pocket when you go out. So many good inexpensive cameras are available. The trick is to get one small enough that you won't mind keeping handy.
  • Automatic: There is no need to get involved with all of the settings (unless you want to of course) Most cameras do an excellent job on auto....besides you don't need perfect photos!
  • Ipad camera:  Don't forget about your ipad camera. Sometimes I see something interesting and the only thing close enough is my iPad....I get the shot! Don't have an iPad? Now you have a good excuse to get one!
  • Printing photos:  If you aren't comfortable with uploading and printing photos don't worry!  I often work right from my camera/ipad/phone screen. The photo is small but even better for me to be expressive. You can't get bogged down with details that you can't even see! Today's paintings are from the photos on my phone.
  • Walgreens: If you do want prints but don't want to fuss with the computer you can email your photos from your phone and Walgreens will print them. Some stores have photo kiosks which allow you to use your camera's SD card to print photos. Other store offer these services but I am most familiar with Walgreens.

So get out there and take photos of the things that inspire you. They will lead you to your best work.

Today's paintings are on black Artagain paper by Strathmore. If you are looking for something to do this weekend and would like to try painting a winter landscape consider downloading my Winter demo for $6. Avalailable in my Etsy shop Here


robertsloan2art said...

Thank you! Long before I got my iPhone, the cheap little camera on my Razr was good enough for reference photos.

I took hundreds of them and just worked from the computer screen or from the phone itself. I didn't need high resolution or perfect color. I needed a memory jogger, just like you said, and more or less proportions for measuring.

It's actually easier with smaller or low resolution photos because there's less distracting detail in the reference and it's much easier to let myself go and interpret on color if I've taken the photo. Agree with you 100% on this!

Wendie Thompson said...

Yes yes and yes! When ever I feel empty of inspiration I grab my camera and jump in my car...snap snap snap...inspired! I also think some photos are too good ...I would never be happy with my finished painting. And some brew in my mind for months...even years before I attempt them!

Jeanne Rosier Smith said...

Great posts Karen! Some of my best paintings are from photos shot from a moving car--the foreground is simplified (whizzing by) and it's easier for me to zero in on my inspiration and eliminate unneeded details.

Giobel said...

The Artist before will go outdoor to paint everyday until it is done, We are now lucky since we have camera and print the photo so that we can paint it in our house without having a daily trip to the place which is your subject