Monday, October 24, 2011

How to Make a Lousy Photo into a Wonderful Painting class results

A less than perfect photograph gives you, the artist, the opportunity to add to what you see, bringing your own vision into the process. Whether you're combining several photos into one, or simply have one of those photos that has something you like but isn't quite satisfying, I encourage you to experiment and see what you can come up with.

Here's one of my awful photos. It has such beautiful shapes in it, but the color and values are awful. Compositionally it needs help, but not a lot.

I suggest doing several credit card sized thumbnails to help you see. Start by drawing what is there, in order to be able to find exactly what it is you really find visually stimulating and interesting. I suspect you will easily spot things that don't please you.

I'm not at all happy with the tall dark tree. Half or less of an object never seems to work very well, plus the shadow it casts really cuts off the entrance to the picture. You can't enter it easily. But I love the massing of the bushes on the left side and the curve of the dirt road. The middle and far planes need work, but they should support the foreground, where I believe the interest lies.

After playing around I found this composition seemed most satisfying. I further refined it in a final thumbnail sketch:

This would be a good starting point for the painting, and from here I would do a more complete drawing, somewhat larger in size and further developed.

'Awful photos' demo, Pans/sticks on gray Pastelmat, 9x12"
 Here is my unfinished class demonstration painting, which combined five photos into one composition. All the photos were taken on the same day in the same location, yet each had different aspects that contributed to the success of the whole thing.

At the moment I wouldn't call it a "wonderful" painting, but I think it holds the promise of becoming one, given a bit more studio time.

You can see the three key photos I cobbled together, and my finished sketch, which is 4x6" in size. I like to sketch in pencil first, then move to the Pitt markers for the values they provide.

I believe that sketching from your photographs will inspire you, whetting your appetite to paint. It should help you see the beauty and rethink the problems.

Often using 'awful' photos as resources results in the most beautiful paintings, perhaps in part because the struggle helps you see more clearly.

Keep painting, gang!

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