Recap Discussion for Lesson #6
Let’s talk about painting from life vs painting from photographs. The self-portraits we worked on exclusively used a photograph even as a mechanism for tracing and finding the right color. This might have felt more difficult than working on the live apple painting. Why? Faces are very complex and we look at images of ourselves with the most critical eye, seeing and caring about details others do not.
Putting the psychology aside though, photographs are flat, they cannot capture everything our eye can, the subtlety of light and shadow from a specific angle, the color accuracy or depth of field. In some ways, the camera lies to us, showing us an ideal or showing things not quite as they really appear. When using reference images, best practice is often to use your own images, use multiple images, use a small section of an image or inspiration for a specific quality of the image in your final piece.
Many painters (digital and analog) use photographs for reference or for straight recreation of the image, transferred into a different media (digital ‘paint’ being a medium also). When using images, the artist must interpret what they are seeing and not seeing in the photo to some extent and craft the work to reinterpret the scene.
What do you think? When is it easier to use a photo reference vs real life? What was your experience and thoughts over the last few weeks in terms of what you valued from each experience? Is there part of the process of using a photo for reference you found particularly helpful? Is there something lost when you paint from a photo in terms of quality? What do you think about using other people’s photos for reference, when and how is that okay or not okay, ethically or legally?
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