Sources of inspiration: painting from photographs… the good and the bad.

The Enclave, Karen Gillis Taylor, oil

One fine weekend I drove west to stay with my family friend Marie who lives in Estes Park, CO. (Her backyard entertains elk and deer from time to time.) Marie and I traveled around Rocky Mountain National Park, and she was patient with me as I took lots of photographs to inspire future studio paintings. This Enclave painting was a good start for me back then. I was hoping to give it some painterly expression and personality.

If a person does not paint from life on the spot, standing in the field, there’s a big challenge to paint the scene once home again. Granted, indoors there is not the problem plein air painters have with changing light and weather, but how do I  remember the first impulse that caused me to capture the scene in a photograph?

Some of my tips:

• Dump all photos that don’t grab you immediately. (I take so many, this is important.)

• Save the special photos that have an arresting impact from the quality of the light or other unusual element of design.

• Trust your instinct when you find a photo that captures your imagination. Do you say to yourself, “I can make this into something much more interesting if I push the limits and make it better”? That’s what I’m looking for.

big mountains, photo, enhanced with Photoshop to prepare for a painting

Here’s a photo I took that day with Marie beside me. (I kept asking her to stop her car when I knew there was a great scene to capture.)

I did make a painting from this photo, but it was missing something when I finished. It needed more expressive and textural brushwork, and a “twist” of the unexpected. I should have let myself stray from the real photo and find a new image coming out of my heart. I froze up way too early.

Revisiting this image, I want to try again, now that I can see it with fresh eyes. Another reason to save your original sources, you might get it right next time. I am hopeful and ready to try again, go in a different direction!

I’m wondering if other artists have found ways of working with photos that seem to work for them. I’d love to hear about it.

The content of this post is copyrighted © 2012, by Karen Gillis Taylor. Please ask if you wish to reblog.

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6 Responses to “Sources of inspiration: painting from photographs… the good and the bad.”

  1. sandy Says:

    Wow, I could live in either one of those shots! Thanks for the photo advice. How did you know that my files were due for a cleaning out today??

    • karen Says:

      Haha! Probably because we all have files waiting for us to weed them out!

      • karen Says:

        Sandy, I like your comment that you could live in that place. I know you are a photographer, and maybe we like to capture images we feel are places so personal we could live there? Just thinking…

  2. nonoymanga Says:

    Very beautiful Paniting. Thanks for sharing Nonoy Manga

  3. Leslie Ann Clark Says:

    As always, I LOVE this painting. Love the bright colors and the contrast! Can i live here?

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