Paint Schoodic

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Three painters, three problems

Carol T's Adirondack Lake, not yet finished. I suggested she put the two of us in her canoe.
I discourage my students from working from photos, but last Saturday three of them had compelling reasons to do so.

Carol T. can draw and paint with almost perfect fidelity. She is so accurate that her drafting skills can become a liability. In the summer, the constant vagaries of plein air protect her from obsessing about details, but when she works from a photo, she can become so focused that she overrides her own emotional response.

Christine, on the other hand, is working on portrait of two men talking on a porch. Christine’s drawing skills are as strong as Carol’s but tend toward the emotive side. In this painting, she felt a strong (and natural) impulse to pull the figures closer together than they really are. But the beauty of her idea was in part in the careful distance the figures kept from each other.

Brad had taken the perfect reference photo—of a fox in his backyard. It would have been a shame to not paint it.

The solution to each of their problems was different.

Brad's fox painting, also unfinished.
To Carol, I recommended carefully studying her reference photos and then putting them aside while she drew. She did several iterations in this way. By looking at her sketches without the ‘noise’ of her reference photo, we were able to determine that she was placing her horizon in the exact spot it would appear in a snapshot. Moving the horizon meant moving her tree masses and boat, but the end result promises to be gratifying.

In Christine’s case, gridding the figures was the only way to get them correctly spaced on the canvas. This required quite a few cropping drafts and some invention, since her photograph didn’t match the proportion of her canvas. But in the end, her drawing had the impact she intended, and I look forward to seeing it interpreted in paint.

The fox before Photoshop. The only change necessary was to bring that tree on the right in so the photo could be cropped to the same aspect ratio as the canvas. 
For Brad, the easiest solution was to circumvent a sketch altogether. It took only a few minutes to make the necessary changes in Photoshop.

Brad's fox after Photoshop. Sapling gone, tree moved to the left.
I generally grid from a sketch, not a photo. But every once in a while, there's a good reason to grid directly from a photo.

Tomorrow: how to grid.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!

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