Monday, July 28, 2014

Photographs Are 99% Wrong

Photography is certainly a necessary part of painting but we need to be aware of certain limitations. My students remember the small sign in my studio that reads "Photographs Are 99% Wrong".

The mechanical camera has no emotional response to the subject matter. Depending on your exposure settings, colors in shadows may be too dark and light areas may be bleached out. The visual depth of field is altered, flattening the perspective and putting everything in focus, often distorting shapes at the edges of the picture frame. Colors shift according to the camera's digital interpretation. Colors and values are further shifted by viewing on a computer monitor or having the photograph printed. 

So what are your options? We do need the photograph as a reference for the general scene. Remember all the photographs you took on vacation - and how many of them were a disappointment? Paintings that adhere too closely to a photograph often are a disappointment too, lacking emotion and having a stiff, overworked appearance, a poor composition and lacking color harmony.

Your Breakfast is Ready 9x12, oil SOLD

Reference Photo

First, and most importantly, use your own photographs. You already have an emotional connection to the scene - to what was happening at that time, the people you were with, the sounds and the smells and your own response. The camera can't register any of this. Emotion is what you need to incorporate into your painting.  

Begin by looking closely at the photograph, asking yourself what impressed you about this scene. This will tell you what is important and what objects were “just there” and need to be omitted. Lightly sketch in your composition, moving or eliminating objects and modifying shapes.

Before you begin to paint, indicate the extremes - the darkest dark, lightest light, most intense color and the sharpest edge. Most of these extremes will be in the center of interest. These are your boundaries.

Once you have the basic composition and the extremes in place, put the photo down. Now paint, incorporating your emotional response and artistic knowledge. Employ all the concepts you have learned – aerial perspective, color harmony, correcting compositional errors, modifying boring shapes and eliminating distracting objects.

Don’t put in something “just because it was there”. Paint the way the eye sees by enhancing the center of interest and downplaying the edges. Think about the actual scene and how it impressed you at the time and paint your interpretation. Your painting will be so much better than the photograph.

Thanks for visiting.

Friday, July 25, 2014

July 2014 Newsletter

July Newsletter

I hope you are enjoying your summer.  Here in Maine the weather has been gorgeous with lots of sunshine, warm days, comfortable nights and only a few days of steamy summer heat.  Great weather to work outside and we have been very busy here!  My art classes are on hold for the summer and I am using this extra time to paint and study.

I have been reading a fascinating book by James Gurney, “ Color and Light”.  A very in-depth study by a talented illustrator and teacher.  I am especially intrigued by his chapter on “Gamut Masking”.  This concept uses the color wheel to chart a selection of harmonious colors to create mood and drama.  The gamut mask shows what colors, and their chroma (intensity), are included.  All other colors are excluded. The gamut mask can be moved around the color wheel to choose different combinations to create various moods and effects.

This was a difficult concept to grasp at first but the more I read and thought about it, the more intrigued I became.  I searched out his blog for more information and found a treasure trove of information on more than just gamut masking and color.  Definitely worth reading.  Here is the link –

Then yesterday I received a note from Leslie Saeta saying that she was organizing another 30/30 painting challenge for September.  Perfect timing!  I can experiment with Gamut Masking for the challenge.  I will have enough time to study a bit more and to purchase a color wheel that shows the full range of color chroma from pure color on the outer edge to neutral gray in the center.  I will purchase both the standard wheel and the Munsell wheel for comparison.  The more I read about the Munsell color wheel the more interesting it becomes.  It differs from the standard color wheel by shifting the colors a bit more to the blue side and is supposedly a more accurate color wheel.

I hope you will consider joining Leslie’s “30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge”.  There are no rules except to have fun.  You can paint as many as you like and she lets you post them on her website.  Any subject, any size.  I enjoyed the January 30/30 challenge and painted 24 – 5x7 paintings.  I noticed a definite increase in energy in my studio and it was fun to join over 400 artists from all over the world in this adventure.  I met many nice artists along the way.  Here is the link - Leslie also has a great blog about her free radio talk show called “Artists Helping Artists” that you can access through your computer at -

I will be talking more about these topics in my future blog posts. You can sign up to automatically receive my new posts in your email mailbox here or in the special box located in the right hand column. There are over 70 previous posts that I hope you will enjoy.

So enough for now.  Lots to think about.  Enjoy!


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Summer Gold, 8x10, oil

Our neighboring farmer just finished haying our front field.  The air is filled with the sweet smell of newly cut hay and the sun shines on the golden hay rolls.  I just had to paint this scene before he came back to pick up the rolls.

Ginger watched the whole procedure very closely.

Summer Gold, 8x10, oil.  Plein air

This painting is available on my ebay page.

Thank you for visiting.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sunday at Saturday Cove, Maine

Last Sunday afternoon my student and I painted at Saturday Cove, a secluded beach just south of Belfast, adjacent to the charming Victorian village of Bayside, Maine.  It was a hot day and the sea breezes were a welcome relief from the heat. 

It was a beautiful day. The tide was going out and the only sounds were the children's laughter and the occasional scolding seagull.  I thought, "How wonderful to see these children running freely, laughing and calling out to each other to come and look at that special rock that looks like a giant shark's tooth or to see that odd creature living in the seaweed.  And, oh, the excitement of finding a piece of seaglass!  If only all children could be so happy and feel so free and safe."

I decided to capture that intimate scene of the children playing.

My student hard at work.

Sunday at Saturday Cove, 9x12, oil.  Plein Air SOLD

This painting has a new home in New Jersey.

Thanks for visiting.  Hope you are having a great summer.