Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Casual Stack" - SOLD

After my recent paintings of cars done in my studio, someone asked me to comment on the subject of painting from photos. I'll probably open a whole can of worms here, but my opinion is: it's a compromise either way. You lose a lot of information when you take a photo - mostly in the lightest lights and darkest darks, and color too. That's a big con, unless you are familiar with the subject and know how and where to add what you're missing. That said, when you're working from life, you've got a big time constraint, especially outside. In one to two hours, the sun will be in a completely different spot, and your subject will have changed considerably from what it started out looking like. Even with a still life, flowers move or wilt, apples brown, radishes shrink, etc. That's a big con. I can tell you tons of artists who do brilliant work from life, and tons who do equally brilliant work from photos.

16 comments:

liz wiltzen said...

Hey Carol - having just finished a project to paint 100 plein air paintings in 100 days, I would like to weigh in on this. It was fantastic to focus solely on painting from life, I learned a TON that could never be learned painting from photos and that was great. But there are countless times I have seen something I am totally inspired by and the only way to reference it (for a number of reasons) is with a photo.

I believe our work from life greatly informs our work from photos, and enables us to make beautiful paintings in either case. Ultimately why not paint what inspires us, using whatever means we have available to do so.

Mary Valente said...

Thanks for being so open about this. Me too - I find that even if I paint in my studio with my make-shift still life 'box' and have the blinds closed on the window - the late afternoon sun starts shifting and all my shadows and highlights creep around! I try so hard to remember the lighting I began with! Love that you are so honest. Mary Valente

Linda Warner Constantino said...

Carol,
I totally agree. They are both different. I find I work better from a photograph if I have sketched the subject or painted it from life first.
The painter and former illustrator Burt Silverman would say: Do at least 120 drawings(in general) from life before you start working from photos so that you know how to use the photograph without becoming a "slave to it."

Loved the cars, by the way.

Seyi Ajayi said...

Lovely rendition...quite impressive.

Sunny Avocado said...

I ABSOLUTELY adore this one! It looks like I can just pick up a mug or grab the spoon. The reflections and lights in this are awesome....

Linda Popple said...

The comments of photo vs. life are so interesting and I always have thoughts about this issue. I agree with Liz in that we paint what inspires us. Sometimes it is impossible to paint that subject from life and a photo has to be used. From my own limited experience I learn so much about light and color from life and prefer it to a photo. However, I use photos when I need to.

I love this composition of cups and spoon. Your colors are nice and the reflections are great.

I also love your car and truck series. Really fantastic!

Brian Cameron said...

HI Carol
I work a lot from digital photos that I embellish on the computer til they look as acurate as possible then display them on a tv screen in my studio to paint from. The lit background of the screen is more like real life than just a photo on paper. Painting outdoors frustrates me as the light changes so quickly and also when I bring a piece back into the studio I find the colors are not at all how they looked outdoors. Still.. I love painting from nature and landscapes are my favorite subjects.
You are an inspiration for me. keep it up!

Anonymous said...

I've wondered if it wouldn't be helpful for a beginner (like me) to use a photograph (of a familiar outdoor scene) to "rough in" ahead of time and then use my time outside learning to see the highlights and shadows. I could even take a few of the same "rough in" and a watch ... so I schedule myself to catch "a moment" rather than "chasing the light" ????

Jolie said...

I love this discussion. When I started drawing, I worked exclusively from photos, because it was an easy way to build my confidence. But then once I enrolled in art school, my professors shunned any work with photos with malicious vehemence. I love working from life, but I missed the planning and preparation that can come from painting with a photo. Just now in my daily painting practice, I'm finally finding a balance. Thanks, Carol, for encouraging me unknowingly.

Karin Jurick said...

I say paint - it doesn't matter if you're standing in a field or looking at a photo. Whatever gets you to paint.
LOVE the trucks, cars.. all of them. Keep doing more Carol, I can't get enough.

Dusty Pines said...

i love the colors in this one - dark & dramatic - lovely! i work from both photos (displayed on a monitor) and from life . . . photos easier, life different but - is it funner? i think so! when i work from a photo, i don't think in terms of copying it, but what i want to do with it. but when i work from life, i tend to be more/too literal! ah well . . .

thank you for sharing this - and yr thoughts!

Anne Winthrop Cordin said...

Love this discussion, just what a community of atists does best! Supporting one another in whatever direction our path takes.

Sharon said...

Hi Carol: Thanks so much for answering my question about working from photos, and for starting this wonderful conversation. I must admit, I cannot tell which of your car/truck paintings were done from life and which were done from photos, so I would say that you have struck the right balance there!
Sharon

Michelle Wrighton said...

Your expressive brushstrokes in this painting is just beautiful! I'm just about to start painting plein air after always working from photographs so this is a very timely discussion!

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

I heartily agree that painting from life is the only way to learn to 'see' what you won't see in the photo. Thus, you avoid copying the colors and values in a photo, which to a practiced eye, stand out like the proverbial sore thumb.
Well, said.
I never get tired of these cups......

garybennett said...

This is a very beautiful painting A nice balance of neutral tones and saturated color. Your work has fine paint handling, nice bold brushstrokes. Thanks for sharing.