Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Blurring the line between reality and photography

 Leapfrog - in progress
30" x 40"  oil on canvas

I am the first to encourage technology use in art - up to a point.  When reliance is completely on a subject that can only be scrutinized through an artificial lens, the view point becomes skewed and a lot of valuable information is lost.

Of course, not everything can be seen in real life and some things simply don't sit still long enough to do detailed paintings or drawings.  However, with experience and a keen eye for repetitive motion, capture of light and lots of practice, even fast moving subjects such as animals and children can be painted or drawn.  The masters had this down to a science obviously, when digital images or even cameras were not the tool of choice or ability to assist painting tasks.

I am sure that if many of these people were alive today they would use photography and digital technology and photo editing and projectors, etc., etc. to make their life easier.  But I don't believe they would rely on them for all the information they needed.

I use photos for reference.  I have little choice in winter when boats are in sheds or upended on wharves or docks with snow and ice piling around them.  I use photos as the bones of a piece.  They are my idea and provide the structure that shows me shapes and colourways.  But I don't stick with them to record each detail.   I draw by hand, though if I'm really in a hurry and really need accurate placement I will use a projector to find relationship points that are my guide to completing a drawing.  But mostly I draw by hand/eye/mind and enjoy the fact that my pieces aren't exactly as an initial photograph looks.

Once the drawing is done and the palette decided on, I toss the photo and go on instinct.  I add colours that others may not see.  My mind and my experience see colours within colours, within shadows, within light.  I only refer back to the photo to ensure that I'm capturing light or shade in the right sections.   There is so much freedom in not being dictated to with a mechanical image that lies about colour and shadow depth, warmth or coolness and even shape.

So use a photograph, but let it be the starting point for your creativity.  Move outside the lines and the colours.  See the real object wherever possible and let its shapes and colours inform you.  You will gain a lot of knowledge from reality and it really needs to be your partner in creating a painting that is art, instead of a painting that is a copy of a photograph.


shevaun said...

That's strange... I've been thinking the same thing myself this week, and about painterly interpretations. Sometimes you need to let go of reality (like a flat shadow colour) to create a more realistic and lively image. Your boats are looking fantastic by the way.

Jeanette Jobson said...

Sometimes an exact replica is what is required, but even then there needs to be the hand of the artist involved I believe.

These boats are such fun to do Shevaun, despite the shapes going skewed now and then :)

theartistsday said...

Love the boats. Always a bug bear for me.
It is said even the Impressionists used photography. You've just got to look at Degas'composition to realise that the cropped images he painted were influenced by this new method of recording things.
Your thoughts certainly ring a bell with me.

Jeanette Jobson said...

Sometimes the shapes defeat me at first but I wrestle them into submission usually :)

Photography and grids were tools from their earliest moments I am sure and great tools they are. Over dependence on anything however, causes hardship I've found.

Katherine Harra said...

I think your tip about tossing aside the photograph is a very important one. The best moment to do that may come at different times for different artists or paintings. In the end the artist needs to come to terms with ONLY what is on the paper in front of them. Their viewer is not going to be comparing it to the photo: the painting has to stand on its own.

Maggie said...

Good post and lovely painting. I usually toss the photo in stages. First I get rid of the color, and use the black and white image for shapes and values, then to finish, I put away the photo references and just fly on my memory and instinct. That keeps me from getting too precious and careful, something that ruins a watercolor.

Maggie said...
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Jeanette Jobson said...

Very right Katherine, the art needs to have its own presence, not reflect something else.

I agree Maggie. There are several stages and each person is different for the stage of abandonment. The freedom that comes with the moment of abandonment is so revealing to me. Its the contentment of knowing I can now really start to let creativity move ahead.

Anita said...

A lesson I am trying to employ too - as I have found that having the photo right in front of me makes me tight and controlled. Your boats are gorgeous!

Jeanette Jobson said...

Its so true Anita isn't it? The photo ties you into its confines and won't let go.