Friday, December 29, 2006

Portraits and photos

I finished a double portrait of my niece and nephew before Christmas and sent it on to where it belongs. I combined two separate photos for this portrait and they weren't the greatest photos to start with, so I looked at other images I had of these two and 'winged it' a bit to create the parts that were still misty to me.

It seems to be that way a lot of the time with commissioned work that is done from reference photos, which is why I always offer to take photographs. That way I know I will have some good images to work from.

People often assume that artists have some sort of special vision that allows them to see what isn't there. They produce dog eared photos taken with a terrible camera in full flash of a fuzzy featured animal some 20 feet away that they say is 'the best photo of Georgie' and then go on to back it up with even worse images.

I know that often a good clear image is not possible and I do work with what I am provided. But I live in hope that one day someone will provide me with a large, clear closeup so I don't have to play detective quite so much.

For those commissioning portraits, animal or person, bear in mind the following points:

1 Photos taken using a flash tend to flatten out features and don't provide enough lighting and contrast for a good drawing to be created.
2. An image taken with the subject's back to the sun will be, more or less, a silouette and won't have much in the way of defining features.
3. I cannot make your terrier look like a poodle, nor can I make you look like you are 21 again. I can tweak a little, but you are going to look like you.
4. A photo that is taken halfway across a field will not provide enough detail to produce more than a blob of colour. You won't be happy with the result and neither will I.
5. I will provide you with sketches of a couple of different poses to choose from. Once you have made your decision and I have developed the drawing or painting, its not wise to change your mind. You will be out of pocket and I will be out of patience.

To be very honest, the majority of people who I deal with are kind, responsive and enjoy the portraits that I produce. 1 in 500 is not. For that person, I do the best that I can and work with them to ensure that their needs are met. Then I readjust the fine print on the contract...


Anonymous said...

I did a picture of my Bible study leader's dogs and cats that have passed on. None of the photos were very good (about 9 animals) I put their heads all on one page. One was black and not close. I had to find one on the internet to give me a little definition. That was hard. Also one of the cats was a small photo and her head was in profile. But she liked it and had me do her present animals 4 boxers and a cat. Most of those pictures were at least doable. Good job and your niece, like your daughters, looks like you.

Robin Neudorfer said...

You did a wonderful job. I think the next time I try a portrait, I will have the person sitting right in front of me. I understand the frustration with photos.

Jeanette Jobson said...

Thanks Jeanne, yes its difficult to work from photos at times.

Robin, I say the same thing - at least for people. With animals however, its another story. They just don't sit still long enough!