WTPD 002 - Fleming Art Group

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4 March 2013 - Painting from photographs

Ali Lindley (www.alilindleyartist.co.uk/) gave the group a talk on Friday 22 February 2013 on painting from photographs. This was a good talk emphasising the need to use photographs selectively both in cropping using a pair of L shaped masks and in leaving things out! The importance of composition, mainly using the rule of thirds, was also discussed together with the importance of getting the form  right especially in portraits. Ali recommended a book by Charles Reid on portraits which I have added to our book list. Ali followed this with a demonstration of painting Winchester High Street in her very loose style.

All artists use photographs in spite of the 'purist' views about sketching from life or painting 'en plein air'. I have included a couple of good books on the subject by Diana Constance and Georg Shook on our book page.

Since we are all using digital cameras, I have given some tips on cropping and composing using a freeware program on my tips page.

Thinking about painting from photographs led me to one of my 'hobby horses', that is, using your OWN photographs. Not only are there copyright issues with using other people's photographs or paintings, see our copyright page, there are, more importantly, artistic ones as well.

Winchester High Street - Ali Lindley

I think all creative activities including; photography, painting, music, sculpture and engineering can be broken down into three parts; craft, composition and that indefinable something known as creative talent.

Craft is using the tools properly, in the case of painting we are using paints, brushes and paper, we have to learn how to lay on washes, mix paints to get the desired colours and all the other techniques. Craft can be taught and learnt.

Composition is arranging the various elements in terms of shape, tone and colour to achieve the picture we want. Composition can also be taught and learnt at least to certain extent.

Creative talent is what separates craftsman from artist, I was a photographer long before I picked up a paintbrush and one of the most complimentary things that was said at the old Southampton Photographic Society was 'well seen' and this remains true in painting. Either 'well seen' in looking at a scene or in your mind in the case of imaginary or abstract work.

Now if we use someone else's photograph we remove a lot of the creative talent, however much we interpret it we did not see it for ourselves. Of course, using photographs in this way can be instructive, David Bellamy sets such photograph interpretation in his books, but we cannot pass them off as 'our' paintings. Even worse is painting from other people's paintings which I often see done, in these cases, even the interpretation and composition is absent and we are left solely with the craft.  

So you will not see me painting Mediterranean or Caribbean pictures, I have never been to either!

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