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.
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.
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