View Full Version : Color My World 2

02-26-2016, 07:34 PM
"The Revenant", in addition to being a good movie, is full of great landscape subjects. The fantastic dark skies with red, green, blue, and violet grays made me want to run home and put something on paper.

What I did do is google 'revenant stills', and many of those landscapes were available to print. However, none of the subtlety of color was there, of course. Which, and I'm finally coming around the barn, leads me to my question. What is a good landscape camera/lens combo, and which is better for preserving subtle colors, film or digital.

02-27-2016, 09:13 AM
Well, I think you ask an interesting question. Having hung out for a few years on some photography forums, I would say that there is no definitive answer. In my opinion, any good camera will be about equal in capturing color. On the one hand, you could say cameras are remarkable inventions. On the other, they are not capable of capturing color exactly (or values, of course) and don't capture the small subtle differences that are there.

The big advantage of digital versus film is that you can easily take your digital photo onto your computer and use any photo editing software to manipulate your image. You can adjust color and values, adjust white balance, make colors more or less saturated and use other tools to help you with your art.

Of course, many folks will answer that the way to capture that subtle color is to go out and paint from nature - not photos. Since I almost never do so, I won't go there! But observing nature closely and then noticing the difference between the photos is certainly an important part of painting from photos.


P.S. Here is a link to a thread from a few years back where I ran into the issue of the limitations of working from a photo and my only recent adventure in plein air!


02-27-2016, 01:36 PM
I'll add a point to plein air. It counts sitting by the window, or staying in your car, any time you look at real things to paint them is plein air.

Understanding nuances of color and light can bring a lot of surprises. Painting with certain palettes will give a mood. I like ot sketch or do color charting outdoors when I can, and even if I can't, to pay attention and try to remember how it really looked compared to a camera. From there it's possible to do my best to match the colors of the scene, or to extend them, enhance this and diminish that, play with color to get the mood and effect I want. It was easier to get playful with color once I'd done some true to life and true to photo color matching. Photos are good for that because they don't move or change with the moving sun - but they miss a number of good things by their own issues.

That and read about color and light, try exercises with both natural and artificial light. You can learn a lot with small controllable still life efforts.

02-28-2016, 05:34 AM
It truly does not matter what camera you use. As Don has so brilliantly shown us in his recap to that old thread, the camera has HUGE limitations when it comes to capturing accurate colours AND tones, hard tho that may be to believe. This is partly because the camera cannot expose for both the lightest parts of the scene, and the darkest parts of the scene, at the same time...it is too much to expect of a mechanical object.

Same place, same time - A pic I would often show my students. This is the original photo, from the camera. If they worked from the photo, they could be forgiven for painting many of the shadows nearly black, and some of the foliage too:


this, in fact, is what the human eye could see. Transparent shadows, showing the brickwork of the patio. Green greenery. amazing difference. But the camera was unable to show it:


The even more amazing thing is that it is all there, in the photo....but without altering the photo, we would never see all this information.

This is why many of us who have worked as painting tutors, bang on about the importance of working from life....AND the importance of gradually learning about the rules of working with colour and tone.

You are trying to become a painter. An artist. What you are NOT trying to become, I hope, is a camera! And this is what happens when you simply take photos and copy them without having any background knowledge about colour, tone, temperature and all the associated fun tools that a painter should have in their toolkit. The skill of the painter is to TRANSLATE the real world, the three-dimensional world which affects not just our eyes, but our emotions too, into a two-dimensional object - a painting. And we must use all sorts of different skills and knowledge and understanding...think about it...the camera just has a lens. We have lenses too, but we also have brains, and feelings, and we have to employ all of these to create something which is MUCH MORE than a photo which is imply the result of pointing a lens at a subject.

It takes a long time to absorb all the wonderful things available to us, but luckily, there are lots of books written by artists who have been willing to share their knowledge and experience with us. As I write this, behind me is a library of books.

People often show pictures of their pastels. By way of a change, here is a picture of my art book collection:
This is a collection of books amassed over 40 years. I have favourites among them, that I use regularly, and some have hardly been used but I have used sections out of every one. Many are art instruction books; many are works of the Masters, old and new. These books are my teachers, and I cherish every one of them. Without those books and the instruction I found within them, I would not be the artist I am today.

PLEASE do not rely solely on the camera. I see so many artists do rely on the camera alone, they will even photograph an apple and paint from the photo, rather than from the apple? Why??? And I am aware that some people simply cannot get out into the landscape to paint, for all sorts of reasons. That is OK...use a window, as Robert so sagely said...Constable painted hundreds of skies from a window. And use books. If you cannot afford to buy, they are available in libraries. (and there is a brilliant free, yes FREE, book written by Deborah Secor, available on line, http://landscapesinpastel.blogspot.co.uk/p/about-author.html) With a greater knowledge and understanding of what you can do with your art materials, rather than your camera, you will grow as a painter, in leaps and bounds.

oops, just fell off the soapbox...ouch.

03-01-2016, 04:06 AM
and yet again, a thread goes silent after I post something. Happens all the time. Must be saying something that offends...............what was it this time?

03-01-2016, 09:47 AM
I see nothing offensive. You are knowledgeable, erudite, and cover subjects thoroughly. I couldn't say it any better so I'll be smart and say no more except thank you for teaching us and please continue.

03-02-2016, 08:40 PM
Thanks all for your thoughts. Everything said by everyone was "eye" opening, and inspiring.

I do paint from real fruit, vases, flowers etc. Its just that it would be nice to bring an approximation of Innaritu's Alberta landscapes into my studio. That is, a good photograph.


03-24-2016, 04:50 PM
Jackie no response doesn't mean you've offended anyone. I concur with what you've written,and see no reason for elaboration. I'm one of those who can't be in the sun even covered in sunscreen, a hat, and UV screening clothes ( which are very hot as they don't breath well); I get sun poisoning. When possible I sit in the shade, but that too influences the colors and values I choose; although it's much better than a photo. I suggest for anyone who works from photos that they use only their own images that they have taken the time to make color and value notes immediately after they've taken the photograph. That way when they see the photo they know those shadows aren't black, and the sky may be more blue green than ultraviolet or cobalt for instance. This is especially important when on vacation in an area with which you aren't familiar. I remember seeing a painting of a very familiar local waterfall painted by an artist who wasn't local. It was accepted into an open pastel exhibit that was mounted at a gallery where I worked. Although technically correct, I kept thinking there was something very "off" about it. Then I realized what it was. The artist lived in the SW, and had visited my area; the Pacific NW. All of the colors that were used were appropriate for her area, but not mine so obviously a photograph was used. If it hadn't been titled with the local name I could probably have lived with what was done.

03-26-2016, 01:23 PM
A couple of comments. Many sins of the camera may be rectified by learning how to use the manual mode, or at least modify the auto settings. This will help to "see into" shadow areas, or bring out sky colors or other bright areas which might otherwise be washed out. Some of this can be done in editing on the computer, though if the information isn't there in the first place, you can't really recover it.

Secondly, you will probably have better luck painting directly from your computer screen, rather than from a print.

That said, it is good to paint from life too. :)

03-26-2016, 07:48 PM
My work is primarily from photos, (I've tried plein air, and continue to fail miserably w nearly every effort.) tempered w a large dose of frequent observation of nature. When I take photos that I plan to use as references, I always bracket my shots - one for the bright areas and one for shadows. Neither make particularly good photos, per se, but they work well as references.