Working from Photographs

Living in NM doesn’t provide much opportunity for painting water.  Wanting to work outside my usual comfort zone, I decided to paint water scenes from some of our travel photographs.  Photographs can never tell the full story of a landscape but can jog your memory of a particular place or experience and provide a convenient reference for artists. But to produce a successful piece of art, an artist must be aware of what she is seeing—and not seeing—in a photograph.  The camera doesn’t always capture what the eye can see in terms of colors and contrast, the warms and cools of highlights and shadows.  Apply what you know, not just what you see. For example, the sky reflected on the surface of the water is generally a deeper hue of the sky above.  Reflections of trees and other objects will be somewhat darker and dimmer than those seen directly.  Water in the foreground is usually darker than water seen at a distance.  When I’m ready to start a painting, I often pull from many different photos for inspiration and do thumbnail sketches to familiarize myself with the subject and composition. In these paintings, I used a travel photo of Yellowstone Lake (far left) as a jumping off point and then reinvented the scenes in watercolor.   

Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot; others transform a yellow spot into the sun.” ~Pablo Picasso


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