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Patrick1
03-23-2005, 12:36 AM
I hadn't yet had the opportunity to paint landscapes en plein air, so right now I often paint from photos I take with my digital camera and then print out (on glossy photo paper for best results).

I've always thought that one of the main reasons many folks prefer to paint a scene en plein air is because photos often don't capture the colors or nuances accurately...some hues might be shifted, chroma lacking, dark shadows can end up looking near-black...losing the subtle hints of color they had in real life, loss of contrast, etc.

My first impulse might be to tweak the picture by playing around with brightness, chroma, contrast, and hues using a painting or photo editing program, but this has limited success...it might bring some parts closer to the actual scene, but make others worse (often garish). So when I'm actually painting from the photo, I just try to use my judgement and tweak the colors to how I think they should look (bad idea perhaps!), and ultimately often missing the 'being there' realism & impact that good plein air painters can achieve in their paintings.

So when working from a photo or printout, how does one go about compensating to try to bring out the way the colors actually looked?


Related question: Is a picture on a computer monitor displayed more accurately than a printout of the exact same image? I think potentially yes...so I'm considering just painting directly from my monitor if its brightness is adequate. Anyone done this? Thanks in advance.

REDart
03-23-2005, 09:31 AM
If I know I will have to work from a photograph, i try to photograph for the painting. I under expose to see the highlights more clearly and overexpose to see into the shadow. One of the biggest problems I find is the distortion caused by the lens. I try to photograph with a 50mm or eqivilent which often means several photos that are taped together later to create the whole. Best is if you can do at least a sketch on location. As far as color goes, it helps to have painted in the location before to use that experience as a base to work from. I am sure you will hear more from landscape painters.

Monitor or printout? I think monitor, and when i work fom digital photos I print them out but check back to the monitor towards the end to see if it's different. How about a large screen TV. :)

FriendCarol
03-23-2005, 10:04 AM
An LCD monitor with color matching software will give better results, I believe, than most color printers. And from long-ago days when I studied photography, I believe you will get better results from slides than printed negatives. Afaik, digital cameras are still not as accurate as optical ones (last I researched this, which was awhile back now -- a matter of a few months makes technical knowledge obsolete these days!).

Some painters use a rear-view projector screen (with normal projector), which can be viewed in normal studio light while painting. You can find affordable ones on eBay; I've wanted to buy one for awhile, but I'm waaay too broke still. :D I saw a photo of this kind of setup in someone's studio in a watercolor painting book once... The book was somewhat "old"; maybe printed in late 70's or 80's. Even an 18" screen a couple feet away can be a great reference.

To compensate: The very best way, if you can, is take along a small sketchbook and w/c kit (simplify with something like Pentel Color Brush filled with water, if necesary, instead of brush and waterbottle/container). Make direct color notes with the colors you can mix (even just 6-8 pigments should let you capture most of it!), on a sketchbook page. It's also VERY useful to write down in words (on the same) what strikes you about the scene. This helps fix it in memory (or it does for me). Might be a good idea, too, to take along that card with holes and different gray-scale values and colors. :)

I used a gray-scale card someone gave me once to figure out how my sunset trees were too dark: My main impression was of darkness against the light, but really they turned out to be only about a 6-7, at most! In general, any photograph will exaggerate contrast -- give you much too black in shadows, or if you compensate by focus on shadows, will wash out lights. But slide film is the same stuff used by film-makers, and does better than most other media.

LarrySeiler
03-25-2005, 12:42 AM
I've always thought that one of the main reasons many folks prefer to paint a scene en plein air is because photos often don't capture the colors or nuances accurately...

there is another reason for painting directly from nature Patrick...than seeing color accurately and so forth. IT is to have an encounter, and then based on that encounter share the experience as a visual impression or expression.

when you stand before nature...you have many options. In a photo the options are limited and fixed. When you stand before nature, your encounter reveals the possibility of perhaps a halfdozen different paintings that could be done...a photo gives you much less, perhaps one.

Plein air is a courtship...a romancing, and your painting is telling me how that date went. Your painting is an honest reaction to the moment and I see how the moment touched you.

A painting from a photograph reveals your encounter with the photograph.

People that have painted plein air a long time do develop an ability to take a photo and interpret it in paint to appear as if painted on location.

A pleasant time can be had in studio working from a plein air reference on color,the mood, the encounter...and working it up into a larger piece instudio.

I only wanted to comment because seeing what a photo doesn't reveal is only ONE reason for preferring to paint plein air. The other is an intimacy with encountering the subject, the thrill and challenge of transfering that energy and expression to paint.

When I see my plein airs after having been put away or at a gallery for long time...I can look and immediately recall and feel, remember sensately how that day and the moment felt while painting. I can feel the sun, the wind and remember if the wind hit me in the face, to the side. I can recall the sounds I heard and so forth.

One can imagine with a photo...but one has to urge themselves to imagine such. With a plein air...its automatic because the painting is a reminder of an encounter. An actual encounter.

Larry

Patrick1
03-25-2005, 03:16 AM
I under expose to see the highlights more clearly and overexpose to see into the shadow.
Thanks Red. You know, right now I have a photo I took of a snow scene last week that I want to paint. If I bump up the brightness and contrast on the 'puter to get the tree colors closer to life, I lose the shadows of indentations & footsteps in the snow...it gets washed out. So I'll print out two pictures...one brightened to do the majority of the scene, and one unaltered to get the steps & tracks in the snow to show up well and to keep the proper darks elsewhere in the scene.

...take along a small sketchbook and w/c kit... Make direct color notes with the colors you can mix (even just 6-8 pigments should let you capture most of it!), on a sketchbook page.
I do oils & acrylics, but that's a good idea...make swatches of the most important/dominant colors in the scene...to set up the color key...kind of like in music. Then at home the rest should fall into place.

P.S.: regarding your debate on another thread with Mr. MacEvoy, I googled 'cooking theory' just for the fun of it, and to my surprise, there is cooking theory out there...gave me a chuckle. Imagine if there's such thing as cooking wheels, complemetary, analogous and triadic flavor schemes, flavor profiles combining to make a new flavor which can (or perhaps can't) be accurately predicted by the Kubelka-Munk cooking theory...;). BTW, combining two flavors...is that additive or subtractive? Heh heh...I'm having a bit of fun with this. Actually seriously, I remember reading in Popular Mechanics a few years back that some scientists are trying to develop a way to synthesize many diverse smells by combining a small number of 'primary smells'.

Plein air is a courtship...a romancing, and your painting is telling me how that date went. Your painting is an honest reaction to the moment and I see how the moment touched you.

A painting from a photograph reveals your encounter with the photograph.
Thanks Larry for summing it up nicely...I didn't realize how important actually experiencing nature is...in order to get it on canvas the way it really was & felt at that moment...the whole sensory experience. It sounds like plein air is not just technically different from studio painting, but also it embodies a whole different philosophy and approach. Kind of like the difference between playing a regular steel-string acoustic guitar and a nylon-stringed classical.

drollere
03-25-2005, 01:04 PM
the main problem i find with photographs is not the colors but the visual proportions in depth: typically the foreground is expanded too much and the mid distance and background objects are pushed too far away. increasing focal length only crops the image to too narrow a visual angle. (i've found a simple manipulation to compensate for this.)

i find there are two assumptions in this thread that are worth looking at: (1) the plein air painting is a "true encounter" while the photograph is ... something else. (2) what needs adjusting here is the color of a source image, which then determines the color in the painting.

the problem with (1) is that it establishes a kind of moral or ethical hierarchy in painting, by which some paintings are judged more true, valid, real, accurate, insightful, powerful etc. than others, based on a purely abstract, a priori and context blind criteria. (not unlike the concept of "kosher" in foods.) it is just as possible to have an "encounter" with a photograph as with something real: if not, then arbus photos would be meaningless and chuck close or gerhard richter paintings would be fatuous.

i heartily agree with larry's endorsement of plein air, and i really believe you should try it, if only to understand a little what all the gab is about. but i dissent from the notion of a status hierarchy in painting methods. i don't think the "encounter" between the painter and his subject is nearly as important as the "encounter" between the painting and the viewer.

(2) this is the classic local color fallacy. the idea here is that the painter has mental scissors that allow him to cut a colored patch from experience and paste the colored patch on a support to produce exactly the same color patch in the mind of the viewer. the fallacy isn't affected by assuming you cut the color from your retina, or a computer screen, or a printout, instead of from the surface of an object. it's the same fallacy.

the fallacy appears in three ways. cutting and pasting colored patches ignores the gamut problem -- certain colors appear in experience that cannot be reproduced in paints, just as paints can create certain colors that cannot be experienced in the specific motif you're looking at. cutting and pasting colored patches ignores the fact that colors are only defined in a visual context, specifically in the illuminant and colored substance, and the fundamental illuminant and substance relationships in a painting are different from those in a landscape. finally, the cutting and pasting of colored patches rules out any adjustment of the colors in the painting for artistic effect *within* the painting -- to convey light, or to set a mood, or to fit a cookiecutter bauhaus color scheme, whatever your aim may be.

for me the point is: what does a photograph represent to you as a source of painting? i took from your question that you had a *technical* problem with the use of photographs, but i wasn't sure what that was. it seemed to be that you wanted to create a photograph that was a sort of "paint by numbers" guide to the painting itself. if so, then your problem may not be with adjusting the photograph but with your preconception of what the photograph should be used for.

i think a major point is that you shouldn't think of the photograph as a unitary object. you can convert it to grayscale to study the value structure; you can increase chroma to analyze the basic colors; you can shift the hue or lightness or contrast to manipulate the image; you can use the pixelate functions to simplify or stylize the forms; and so on. you might do several of these things to the same photo and print them all out, in which case you wouldn't be painting from a photo but from a family or cluster of photos -- and why not?

i also doubt you should *try* to paint from a computer monitor -- the monitor is an emitting color source while the landscape, printout and painting are reflecting color sources, so color matching is tricky to begin with (for example, in finding a room illumination that lets you see both accurately); anyway, it should be possible to manipulate the source photo in some way so that the printout contains the information you need in usable form, though not with "cut and paste" false literalism.

i often paint landscapes from photographs, but they are my photographs, so i have actually seen the motif for myself. then i adjust or distort and print the photograph in various ways to produce a group of images that is both easier to work from and more declarative of the many aspects of the the landscape as i imagine it to be. and the painting that results is unambiguously different from both the photo and the motif.

FriendCarol
03-25-2005, 02:28 PM
two assumptions in this thread that are worth looking at: (1) the plein air painting is a "true encounter" while the photograph is ... something else. (2) what needs adjusting here is the color of a source image, which then determines the color in the painting.Let's assume one sees something one wishes to paint, and that it is a landscape 'scene.' (May we please agree to use the word 'scene' in this context for what one sees first-person with one's own eyes?)

Imo, one wishes to paint the 'scene' in order to express an experience brought about (or possibly evoked again) by the scene. (I'm using an experience-based definition of art here which I'm no longer quite sure of, but that would be another argument.) Can we agree so far?

Now, I know most of the world sees primarily in values, but shades of grey evoke little or nothing for me -- I can't even detect patterns reliably, it seems... So my own impression of the scene is almost totally an impression formed by the colors.

It is unlikely one single set of colors alone make this impression! We can distinguish so many colors, and we live in a world so various in the effects of light, that this just seems unlikely to me. So we're not talking about accurately recording the exact colors (all right -- maybe Larry and some others are; but for the record, I'm not).

When I wanted to paint 'Sunset Elm' (a series I did not long ago, and haven't finished yet), it was because I had come up a hill on my crutches, pushing my collapsible cart (loaded with library books) before me, so I had ample opportunity to observe a sunset, and an elm. There came a moment. It was something to do with calm and majesty despite extreme (yet not gaudy) color....

As poet I call the genesis of a poem a 'crystal.' As painter, it is a 'moment.' That moment is what I want to express. If I understand Bruce properly, he would say he wants the painting to evoke a (similar?) moment for the viewer. (Are we okay so far? I don't want to paint the scene, nor the photograph, nor the sketch -- I want to paint the moment.)

Now, all this has absolutely nothing to do with whether I try to create (or evoke, if I were other-centered ;) ) from memory, from a sketch made on the spot, from a photo, or from someone's description. The criteria that take over for me, at this point (at least partly; I'm still a somewhat inept visual artist!) are: (1) What colors capture that moment, and (2) principles of design, applied to elements of design, that will technically assist me in portraying my moment.

the problem with (1) is that it establishes a kind of moral or ethical hierarchy in painting, by which some paintings are judged more true, valid, real, accurate, insightful, powerful etc. than others, based on a purely abstract, a priori and context blind criteria.I hope I have made clear why this statement does not follow, for me.

...endorsement of plein air... i don't think the "encounter" between the painter and his subject is nearly as important as the "encounter" between the painting and the viewer.I hope I have addressed this issue, too.

(2) this is the classic local color fallacy. the idea here is that the painter has mental scissors that allow him to cut a colored patch from experience and paste the colored patch on a support to produce exactly the same color patch in the mind of the viewer. the fallacy isn't affected by assuming you cut the color from your retina, or a computer screen, or a printout, instead of from the surface of an object. it's the same fallacy....

i think a major point is that you shouldn't think of the photograph as a unitary object. you can convert it to grayscale to study the value structure; you can increase chroma to analyze the basic colors; you can shift the hue or lightness or contrast to manipulate the image; you can use the pixelate functions to simplify or stylize the forms; and so on. you might do several of these things to the same photo and print them all out, in which case you wouldn't be painting from a photo but from a family or cluster of photos -- and why not? Agreed, as to the second point.

As to the first, a sketch with color notes is an attempt to fix on the paper, using known and identifiable colors, one aspect of the moment which one wishes to express. (The easy way -- in one sense, but certainly not the only way, is to attempt to reproduce the colors with sufficient accuracy. That's definitely not the method I generally use, however. More on that in a moment.)

The photograph, on the other hand, is far more useful (for me, anyway) in attempting to understand the structure of what is there. (When I don't know what I'm looking at -- which happens a lot since I have not been a visual person much of my life -- my brushstrokes become tentative, I lose perspective and everything else guessing what is that!?!). I've seen authors recommend using b&w photos (supplemented with color sketches) because b&w captures better the values and structure (though not, of course, for me :rolleyes: ).

Thing is, I find it relatively easy to paint from photographs, insofar as they convey to me what I'm looking at (i.e., the cylindrical tower rises about double the height of the roof below) and contain certain information (i.e., what is the characteristic angle at which those trees branch?). But I doubt I have ever actually painted from one without so altering shapes and placement that the painting and photo remain recognizable as representations of the same scene!

As to choosing colors, as I've said a tedious number of times previous, my process is simply to choose what may be the critical pigment (I'm usually good at this, it's my one natural talent as a visual artist!), then choose others such that I minimize the number of pigments I need for the whole. A small number of pigments results in color unity, which is really what I want. If I choose my pigments, and then mix them so as to convey (for myself) and express (to others) the moment which is the genesis of the painting, it succeeds, at least on the color dimension (the one at which I'm better -- apart from values, anyway :D ).

There's probably more argument to come, but it's best to go in small steps, eh? :)

drollere
03-25-2005, 04:21 PM
Let's assume ... may we please agree .. i'm using ... can we agree ... I know ... I can't ... it is unlikely ... we can ... we live in ... this just seems unlikely ... we're not talking about ... for the record ... more argument to come ... (etc.)
glad tidings, friendcarol: i am fundamentally not interested in your definitions of reality or your labeling of your conceptions; nor am i at all interested to change anything going on in your life or in your head.

some people do see a public bulletin board as a place for recreational dispute; i approach it as a public repository for personal testimony. i try to communicate my ideas in a way that will be of interest or benefit to any reader of the thread, but i primarily address the query made by the person who originated the topic. other people post their views, and it's up to the reader, not me, to sort them out.

if i do focus on a specific statement made by another person, it's to set the record straight by my lights (such as they are). i don't really care at all if the person "changes their mind" or "admits they are wrong" (to me, all that is a useless distraction). i simply want their statement to appear with an appropriate rebuttal.

some postings will appear lucid and to the point; others will appear woolly and abstract. i let the readers sort out sense for themselves.

FriendCarol
03-25-2005, 06:30 PM
All right, I'll try another approach:

Someone wishes to paint a 'scene' as a landscape. If the person photographs that scene, what, if anything, does the photograph convey? What, if anything, can the painter do, in addition, to achieve their goal?

Clarity as to the goal: Not reproduction of the photograph or the scene, but to express one's reaction to the scene, or to evoke a similar or related reaction in the viewer. (Is this accurate, Patrick?)

The portrayal of the scene comprises shapes, colors, and values (for those perceiving values as separable from colors), distributed on the surface (composition). The reaction to the scene, however, is NOT necessarily found in these shapes, these colors, or these values. The questions at this point are: (1) What colors (or values, for tonalists) capture the reaction to the scene?, and (2) which principles of design, applied to which elements of design, will technically assist in portraying/evoking that reaction to the scene?

Please note that no ethical or moral issues have been raised herein.

Conceptually, the 'easy' way to capture one's reaction to the scene would presumably be to reproduce the scene (within the 2-dimensional limits of the painting surface) exactly. Imo, this (Faustian?) solution is trivial.

Addressing the first question, then: A photograph cannot do this accurately; a color sketch may, but would probably no longer be a sketch if it were completely accurate. Does either need to be accurate? NO, because one only need create a limited palette that evokes the reaction to the scene, not complete color accuracy for all shapes in the scene. The color sketch should allow the painter to create and evaluate this satisfactory palette; a photograph does not allow sufficient creative control to accomplish it. (Nor, unless one uses a Polaroid camera, will one be able to evaluate the result at -- or soon after viewing -- the scene, to see how well it captures whichever factors contributed to one's reaction to the scene.)

The photograph is more useful in attempting to capture the structure -- shapes and their placement -- in the scene. Some authors recommend using b&w photos (supplemented with color sketches) because b&w film can better capture the values and structure. The shapes and their placement in the scene may play only a limited role in the portrayal/evocation of the reaction to the scene, but at least one would have this original information in the photograph.

One may, obviously, react to a photograph rather than to a scene. Again, it is the reaction, not the photograph, which is then to be expressed by the painter/evoked in the viewer. The same elements are available to the painter -- colors (including values here), shapes, and their placement -- regardless of the source of the reaction. Again, there is no moral or ethical issue, imo.

Note: Women my age learned early to adapt public speech to protect fragile egos; it's a hard habit to break.

Richard Saylor
03-26-2005, 01:35 AM
.....One of the biggest problems I find is the distortion caused by the lens.....
Good lenses have no noticeable distortion, and the distortion of bad lenses (usually barrel or pincushion distortion) is easily ignored if you are using the photo for a painting. You are probably thinking of perspective effects, which result from the projection of a three-dimensional region onto a flat surface (the film plane).

Perspective appears to be exaggerated when the camera is very close to the subject. This usually happens with wide angle lenses, but only because of the way they are often used (for close-ups), not because of their focal length. Perspective appears to be flattened when the camera is far from the subject. This usually occurs with long (telephoto) lenses, only because they are often used to take photos of distant subjects. To repeat, these perspective effects depend only on camera-to-subject distance, not on the focal length of the lens. It is a geometrical phenomenon, not optical.

Marc Sabatella
03-26-2005, 01:37 PM
Someone wishes to paint a 'scene' as a landscape. If the person photographs that scene, what, if anything, does the photograph convey? What, if anything, can the painter do, in addition, to achieve their goal?

Clarity as to the goal: Not reproduction of the photograph or the scene, but to express one's reaction to the scene, or to evoke a similar or related reaction in the viewer. (Is this accurate, Patrick?)

The portrayal of the scene comprises shapes, colors, and values (for those perceiving values as separable from colors), distributed on the surface (composition). The reaction to the scene, however, is NOT necessarily found in these shapes, these colors, or these values.


I think this does a decent job of putting in more concrete terms some of what Larry was saying - that is, why it might actually make a difference in your painting. Frankly, I tend to accept the sorts of things Larry wrote at face value, without concern for whether they make for a better painting or not. That is, it's about the process, not the result for me - I just want to have the experience Larry describes. If I get a good painting out of it, so much the better.

On the other hand, I can also get deeper into the specifics of how the plein air experience affects my painting, along the lines Carol suggests here. In particular, when I look at a photograph, I'm seeing a little 4x6 (or 8x10, or whatever) representation of a scene, and I can try to reproduce that. But in nature, I am *surrounded* by the scene. Even if I choose to paint the exact same composition that is represented by the photograph, I cannot help be affected by what is around me. For instance, if its late afternoon and the world around me is bathed in the orange glow of sunset, that's a different sensory experience than looking at a 4x6 rectabge that happens to have an orange cast (even assuming the colors were reproduced accurately). At some level, I know that simply reproducing those colors on an 11x14" panel is similarly going to not convey the same sense of being bathed in orange light to a viewer who is not there. I'm going to have to think creatively, to consider what I could put on my 11x14" canas that might begin to capture the experience of being *surrounded* by that light. One obvious answer is to push the intensity of the color, but of course there are any number of things one might try - all potentially valid, and all things one might feel less tempted to try working from a photo. These are among the specific ways that the plein air experience might quantifiably lead to different paintings.

But note I didn't say better here. There is no doubt that having to compromise on time to minimize the effect of changing light - and then still have to put up with considerable change - can cause to make decisions that will result in somewhat less accuracy in shape, color, or edges than you might otherwise wish.

I guess this is all a roundabout way of saying that if you are thinking about painting landscapes from photos and are wondering how to make the resulting painting more like what might result from painting en plein air, I think resolving the slight differences in color are by far the least of the problems you will encounter. As an analogy, that would be like deciding you want to climb a mountain but wish to make the experience more like that of swimming the English Channel, and then going about that by asking about the differences in weatherproofing you might need for your gear.

Patrick1
03-27-2005, 08:07 PM
Thanks everyone. To be clear, I'd like a single photo that shows colors accurately...the way they really looked. And then use that to paint a picture that captures the essence of the scene...I'm particularly trying to get the effects of bright sunlight on tree foliage, rocks, snow etc on a sunny day...something photos don't capture well regardless of how I tweak it or how may tweaked versions I print out.

So my question was how artists overcome the color limitations of photo references both in a technical way as well as in an artistic way. So far, I'm learning to use my own memories and judgement to bump contrast & chroma, shift hues a bit, put in a bit more of the subtle colour in dark shadowy areas where it's lacking in the photo....in order to pull more life & color & sparkle out of a photo that looks dull compared to the real thing.

FriendCarol
03-27-2005, 08:38 PM
... I'd like a single photo that shows colors accurately...the way they really looked.(excuse me while I roll around on the bed laughing) okay, ahem... :) Btw (or maybe not!), have you heard yet the part I didn't tell you before -- that different FILMS give you different hues? :D

I'm particularly trying to get the effects of bright sunlight on tree foliage, rocks, snow etc on a sunny day...something photos don't capture well regardless of how I tweak it or how may tweaked versions I print out.Remember that Paul Simon song, Kodachrome? I don't even remember now whether Kodak bowed to popular demand/outrage and left that film (as opposed to their own Ektachrome, etc.) on the market... but :music: give me those nice bright colors, give me the greens of summer... :music: :)

Ah, Patrick, Patrick. Poor lad, only wants an accurate photograph. Do you know film-makers send their negatives off to special labs for 'color matching?' Because otherwise colors would change noticeably between cuts within a scene, even! :) (Now something completely off-topic: Would I be right in guessing you don't cook much? When you described a potential 'cooking theory' in terms of herbs & spices for flavoring as the major concern I wondered. :) )

Okay, brain finally kicking in again now: Maybe some Photography forum folk can help you? There may well be information about which brand & speed of film are best for capturing particular types of contrast or hue... Definitely should be info on chroma & saturation per film brand/type/speed, and on using filters and such. It's been about 20 years since I was up on that lore, and surely many things have changed.

P.S. I remembered you kicked off this thread noting that you're using a digital camera. Maybe you can find an 'old' film camera on ebay -- should be pretty cheap these days! That's if you decide you want one, of course.

Richard Saylor
03-28-2005, 12:42 AM
Patrick, digital photos almost always look drab. Use your photo editing program to boost the contrast and color saturation.

The best color is Kodachrome. Next best, I think, is C-41 process film, but downrated to half its nominal ISO rating: if it is ISO 400, it should be used as if it were ISO 200. I.e., always overexpose by about 1 stop. This will give the most accurate and realistically vivid color.

Richard
My Gallery (http://www.rangefinderforum.com/photopost/showgallery.php/cat/500/ppuser/1036)

FriendCarol
03-28-2005, 08:06 AM
In 1975 Richard Schmid wrote (p. 31-32 of R. S. Paints Landscapes) "never had scruples because... [photography] never became a substitute for seeing....
photography is an invaluable tool in painting....
must be used with discretion... no substitute for working from life and I would discourage anyone from using photographs until he has first put in years of painting from life... photography can destroy the painter's ability to paint the illusion of depth... Another serious drawback of film is its relatively narrow range of color and value. Low values and dark colors tend to merge in photographs; colors in the light, above a certain value, are simply washed out...."

Hope this helps. The above is all still true, afaik, of digital cameras. Even removing the limiting nature of film from the problem, mechanical/electronic reproduction of our marvellously sensitive vision is still way beyond our current capabilities. Or, if it isn't, the technology is probably 'top secret,' to be used only in spy satellites. :rolleyes:

P.S. I'm sorry about the unseemly outburst yesterday. :D Humor stems from, among other things, sudden cognitive incongruity; this massive amount of stuff about photography was left over in my mind, and then suddenly juxtaposed to this was the idea of tiny little 'accurate photograph.' (Bad Carol! do not laugh out loud!)

LarrySeiler
03-31-2005, 12:20 PM
Thanks Larry for summing it up nicely...I didn't realize how important actually experiencing nature is...in order to get it on canvas the way it really was & felt at that moment...the whole sensory experience. It sounds like plein air is not just technically different from studio painting, but also it embodies a whole different philosophy and approach. Kind of like the difference between playing a regular steel-string acoustic guitar and a nylon-stringed classical.

well...one can embrace a bunch of letters...some with sweet perfume added to them, and talk about their on going relationship with their friends that has gone on for two years. Or...one might actually hold, physically embrace.

When one goes out with one's love but with other friends, the evening takes on a superficial level. You get a snapshot experience....but, things that are deep and personal are shared when no one else is around, and when the relationship has progressed where your love has gained trust.

Photos reveal only so much and they entertain from the get go the fanciful ideas we may have even prior to picking up the photo. We like a photo because it supports are preconceptions.

When experiencing nature directly...it, like embracing your love directly...is what it is and dispels notions. With photos...you tap into yourself. Experiencing your subject directly...you open yourself up to the unknown and that which is greater than yourself.

There are those that would prefer to garnish and hold their creativity as preimminent and may even hold in their hearts a caution or resentment toward that which would impinge upon their creative licenses. A photograph can be looked at a bit more subjectively and it is easier to ignore nature as a separate and distinct entity. It is true that seeing so much information, input like the robot "Five alive" can make it difficult to arrive at what one wishes to commit to as a statement.

The novice in painting plein air struggles often with seeing so much more once set up than the initial inspired compulsion, and is inclined to attempt to record it all...like doing two or three paintings in one. They will learn the hard way that when eveything is shouting, nothing gets heard. Thus, one trains themselves for selective seeing...to consider more what NOT to paint, and gets a pulse on the moment, the secret things, the hidden mystery of beauty in nature. Its that romancing aspect I referred to. This, all under the duress and tension of an elusive moment.

What a photograph does not transfer to the artist in the convenience of their studio (and believe me I painted that way as a wildlife/nature artist for near 20 years instudio), is the transitory temporal existence of the moment. A photograph locks and freezes a moment...but all such moments are lost in experience. It forces one to pay great attention. To take it all in.

I'll give an example with something I wrestled with once. The wildlife art loving public enthusiasts rave over seeing the 200-300 hour labored paintings of say a group of ducks in flight across threatening chilly waters, walking up to the painting seeing each feather group in its identifiable place. The irridescent coloration of light hitting specific feathers on the heads and so forth. Frozen in flight.

Then, I discovered the wildlife artist Manfred Schaatz...these two are examples...an old wildlife art master...

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Mar-2005/532-collectorscovey_1839_243358012

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Mar-2005/532-collectorscovey_1839_251155766

People immediately loved his work or hated it. Wanting to know where all the detail was? These paintings did not come off as realistic, couldn't count the feathers or see the subtle variations of color.

But...as I said, I wrestled and asked of myself to account for the question, what is realistic? Does a thing exist in REAL time...and is it not proper to consider time as a subject component itself?

We do not look up in the skies and see ducks frozen in air. We are not able to count feather groups and see high degree irridescent colorations.

The more I looked at what it was that Schatz was attempting to do the more I realized he had a pulse on an element that so many of us wildlife artists were missing.

We were more like illustrators in a way. We were identifying a thing saying, "here's a duck...here's a tree, here's a river otter; Here's what this thing or that looks like given we froze it in a moment of time!

Somehow we have grown or been enculturated to consider that frozen in time to be most realistic...however living, breathing REAL things do not live frozen.

Thus...how would one wanting to include the element of time as an agency of realism into their work?

I think Schatz was a genuis and a mastery at trying to work this out in his own art. You don't simply distort a wing to read as a wing. You actually do have to master anatomy to understand how one might distort a thing to acquire its actual existence and existing in a frame of time.

Now...nature is like this. The moment you experience nature, the moment is gone. Locked only in your memory...but gone. Is it realistic, is it truly representative of what nature is and does to capture one moment, and then paint such a moment as to represent it?

Standing there...looking at color in a tree's foliage affected by light, by clouds filtering light, by breezes moving the foliage about...seeing the constant fllickering. Seeing color increase in its chroma...fading, cools and warms shifting and moving in and out. Is this not part of the drama of what IS nature?

Painting directly...is a more honest REACTION, an expression of your impression that is as close to what it is that nature is actually doing. Your painting is more truthful and goes beyond illustration of what a thing is or looks like. What it is doing in REAL time is a part of the realism of nature.

I've ranted to an "x" degree on this to hope I might do some justice in trying to explain it.

I do not mean to insult what it is that instudio artists do. I am speaking about the realities that all of us as artists do in REAL life in wrestling with matters that will affect our art. It is possible and I hearily encourage it that artists get out of their studios to paint directly from nature not to abandon your studio...but to bring such studies back inside with you. Instead of a static image, the study will trigger greater memory and aesthetic sensitivities that will bring more integrity and energy to your use of photos also taken on the location. Together...they will serve our attempts to paint and work out what it means to represent nature realistically.

I see my having encountered the moment also as one of the elements of nature.

It is NOT me standing off to the side simply observing nature, as though I were a separate intrusion, but being there makes me one with the moment, a participant that is not static. Painting plein air is not only experiencing a moment in REAL time...but a response that was there experiencing as part of the real moment. In that sense...for me, the work carries greater integrity. It speaks more honestly about what being there meant to me.

I see in a plein air one's report of their encounter with nature. A photograph copied shows me one's encounter and report of how a photograph impressed them.

Yes...the two coming together...a study, a photo and past experiences can all work together well to make a report.

Thanks for everyone's tolerances in my liberties to rant...

Larry

Einion
03-31-2005, 03:25 PM
The best color is Kodachrome. Next best, I think, is C-41 process film...
I agree.

....but downrated to half its nominal ISO rating: if it is ISO 400, it should be used as if it were ISO 200. I.e., always overexpose by about 1 stop. This will give the most accurate and realistically vivid color.
I believe you meant to say underexposing by about a stop ;) I do this routinely to improve saturation.

In 1975 Richard Schmid wrote (p. 31-32 of R. S. Paints Landscapes) "never had scruples because... [photography] never became a substitute for seeing....
photography is an invaluable tool in painting....
must be used with discretion... no substitute for working from life and I would discourage anyone from using photographs until he has first put in years of painting from life... photography can destroy the painter's ability to paint the illusion of depth... Another serious drawback of film is its relatively narrow range of color and value. Low values and dark colors tend to merge in photographs; colors in the light, above a certain value, are simply washed out...."
While this is all true to some extent, an intelligent use of photography will overcome all of these limitations :)

If anyone would like to know the right way to use photography as a source check if your local library has John Howard Sanden's Successful Portrait Painting. The great thing about this is that what used to be practically beyond the reach of the average leisure painter almost all of us can now do on our computers in but a moment.

Einion

LarrySeiler
03-31-2005, 05:33 PM
While this is all true to some extent, an intelligent use of photography will overcome all of these limitations :)


Einion


this is absolutely a statement I agree with...

my problem was, thinking myself wise...I was absolutely the fool. I did not know what I did not know, but knowing what I did absolutely thought my work from my wildlife career days was top notch. The blah blah awards substantiated and further inflated that notion.

I agree...if one has a sound full complete knowledge of their subject and the many conditions their subject finds itself in, the photo is simply a tool or reference, and their knowledge will overcome all limitations.

I'm fessin up that I was not as good or as knowledgable as my reputation and life's commitment had led me to believe. That fact bore itself out when with brush in hand I stood before my subject, despite all my recreational other encounters and beliefs of authoritative experiences. Intelligence belies confidence until what one did not know becomes evident...then its like, open mouth...insert foot.

There are those possessing faculties of observational skills and particular talents that perhaps are unique and set apart. Living perhaps in the largest metro area farthest from a known pristine accessible encounter with nature, can with recollection alone deliver the most believable rendering of it.

My surprise at the difference taking it outdoors admits two things. Not only how much I suddenly observed, but how inadequate I had actually been prior to such direct observation. Again, speaking only of myself...concerning myself and my work. I lacked the apparent vital and necessary intelligence.

Larry

Einion
03-31-2005, 07:22 PM
this is absolutely a statement I agree with...
Wow, I didn't expect you to agree with that! :)

my problem was, thinking myself wise...I was absolutely the fool. I did not know what I did not know, but knowing what I did absolutely thought my work from my wildlife career days was top notch. The blah blah awards substantiated and further inflated that notion.
I see exactly what you mean here, both from personal experience and from seeing the problems people come up against when trying to work from photos exclusively - it's too easy to think of the reference as THE visual truth of a scene, when obviously there is so much more to it.

In case it wasn't clear from the context one of the things about Sanden's suggested use of photography is that it is only used as an adjunct to what he does primarily - paints from life. You don't have to paint from life to be able to paint well, a point I've been trying to get Ken to see, but I'd never argue it has no benefit in getting to a certain level of accomplishment. If someone is happy being a recorder or interpreter of photographs fair enough, but one has only to open one's eyes and really look to see how much more there is that can be painted.

Oh before I forget again Larry thanks for posting those images of Schaatz's work, I think that's probably the best impression of movement I've ever seen painted traditionally, what an observer he is! This is particularly apt today as I was just photographing a male mallard a few hours ago and hoping to catch him taking off as I walked closer; I got some good feather references if nothing else.

Einion

Richard Saylor
03-31-2005, 07:35 PM
I believe you meant to say underexposing by about a stop I do this routinely to improve saturation.

Underexposing E6 slide film by 1/3 stop will yield acceptable images with improved saturation. This can be accomplished by rating the film 1/3 stop faster than indicated on the film box (if your camera allows you to override the automatic film speed setting) or by an exposure compensation of E -1/3.

C41 negative film is sort of the opposite. Color saturation can be improved by overexposing the film by 2/3 to 1 stop, either by using an exposure compensation of E +2/3 or E +1, or by rating the film 2/3 to 1 stop slower than it's nominal ISO rating.

With digital you just have to experiment until the sensor is happy.

Einion
04-02-2005, 08:04 AM
C41 negative film is sort of the opposite. Color saturation can be improved by overexposing the film by 2/3 to 1 stop, either by using an exposure compensation of E +2/3 or E +1, or by rating the film 2/3 to 1 stop slower than it's nominal ISO rating.
I've never seen overexposure do anything but wash out colour and create high-key images so I'm confused.

With digital you just have to experiment until the sensor is happy.
:) I have this image of happy little sensors all lined up on the CCD.

Einion

FriendCarol
04-02-2005, 10:06 AM
I've never seen overexposure do anything but wash out colour and create high-key images so I'm confused.Bet you use slide film, as I used to do. The negative of the kind of film from which prints are made works the opposite of slide film, in which the 'negative' is the slide itself. I used to underexpose to increase saturation, too, since I was using slide film. Think of it this way: if the information isn't on the negative (no light hitting the darkest areas, since it's insufficiently exposed), it can't then be processed into a print.

Now I'm wondering how all this translates to digital, um, 'media.' Not film, obviously. I wonder what the receptive surface is, on which the information is measured. And how measured... Stored sequentially? Already compressed (non-lossy format, I assume)? Now I'm all curious and I'll have to go research, though I'm pretty sure I'm a couple years from wanting to buy one of those myself (even if I had the money). :D

Richard Saylor
04-02-2005, 02:04 PM
I've never seen overexposure do anything but wash out colour and create high-key images so I'm confused.
Just to be specific, suppose you are using C41 color negative film with a nominal speed of ISO 400 (DIN 27). It is amazing stuff. One of the nice things about this film it its enormous exposure latitude. It can be rated at anything between ISO 50 (DIN 18) and ISO 800 (DIN 30) and still yield acceptable negatives with normal processing (no push or pull).

However, the nominal ISO 400 rating of this film is too conservative (fast), probably in order to help insure against overexposure in cameras with poor, inaccurate exposure control. (As you obviously know, of the two evils, underexposure is preferable to overexposure.) What then would be the optimum rating?

Since the film can be rated at any speed from ISO 50 to ISO 800, the optimum should lie halfway between these extremes. For the ISO series this would be the geometric mean of 50 and 800, or ISO 200. For the DIN series, it would be the arithmetic mean of 18 and 30, or DIN 24.

Einion
04-03-2005, 09:02 AM
Bet you use slide film, as I used to do.
Nope :) With any negative colour film underexposure is the basic route to increased saturation, or at least that's what I have understood to be the case for the last 25 years or so. I've stopped using film completely now so I'm a little out of touch perhaps but basic principles shouldn't have changed unless the films are now of a completely different type.

Now I'm wondering how all this translates to digital, um, 'media.'.
Underexposure gives increased saturation ;)


It is amazing stuff. One of the nice things about this film it its enormous exposure latitude. It can be rated at anything between ISO 50 (DIN 18) and ISO 800 (DIN 30) and still yield acceptable negatives with normal processing (no push or pull).
NO push or pull?? You mean you just get it processed at the rated speed and it will still work?

But surely that means you can also shoot, on a single roll, photos at 400ASA and 50ASA and they'll both be printable or, to put it another way, you can underexpose by three whole stops and there's still usable info on the negative! Even with Ilford's C41-process pseudo-B&W film (XP or XP2, I can't remember which I used) you couldn't really get away with quite this much latitude at a single processing. With standard colour film a three-stop underexposure would probably give you a negative that was darn close to clear :D

I understand that this is basically an EI issue, I push-processed a roll of 400ASA film to 3200 once to allow easy hand holding in a very dull lighting situation once but of course it had to be processed accordingly for the process not to wash away all that detail - as in highlight areas at the given speed. By the by, the grain wasn't that excessive, much to my delight even though I only needed the photos for documentary purposes :)

Einion

Richard Saylor
04-03-2005, 02:33 PM
NO push or pull?? You mean you just get it processed at the rated speed and it will still work?

I mean that you can take the film to a one-hour lab which has a good automatic processor, and and you'll get negatives good enough for decent prints. (Don't tell them you exposed it over or under the rated ISO or they'll just get confused!!!!! :rolleyes: )

ISO 400 C41 film easily tolerates one stop underexposure but needs to be pushed for anything beyond 800.

Ilford XP2 has such wide latitude that I rarely even use a light meter with it. Otherwise it is similar to the C41 color films.

Take a look at Philip Greenspun's article http://www.photo.net/photo/film.html#Negative

I'm content to let this OT subthread die. The facts can speak for themselves; they don't need my advocacy.

Richard Saylor
04-03-2005, 11:51 PM
But surely that means you can also shoot, on a single roll, photos at 400ASA and 50ASA and they'll both be printable or, to put it another way, you can underexpose by three whole stops and there's still usable info on the negative!

Change the word "underexpose" to "overexpose" and your statement will be correct.

To shoot C41 ISO 400 film at ISO 50 you have told the camera's exposure system that the film is 3 stops less sensitive to light than it actually is. This will result in a 3 stop overexposure, not underexposure. A 3 stop underexposure would result from rating it at ISO 3200. I would never rate C41 ISO 400 film any faster than ISO 800.

Einion
04-05-2005, 05:34 AM
Change the word "underexpose" to "overexpose" and your statement will be correct.
Oops :o you are of course completely correct, my apologies. Half the speed = double the exposure etc., how silly of me.

Einion

Richard Saylor
04-06-2005, 12:12 AM
Oops :o you are of course completely correct, my apologies. Half the speed = double the exposure etc., how silly of me.

Einion
Not at all. I get it backwards myself.

sundiver
04-06-2005, 12:30 PM
I've never seen overexposure do anything but wash out colour and create high-key images so I'm confused.
Einion


As I understood it, it was long exposure time, not overexposure, that increases saturation. The f-stop is changed to compensate so the exposure would still be "correct". Now I'm talking about my old Pentax S1-a, fully manual, with a handheld light meter, but it worked then.


There's an interesting (and not preachy) article on plein air in the recent issue of International Artist, btw.

drollere
04-06-2005, 01:57 PM
i think this techinical digression into photography has lost the main point of the thread.

there are two fundamental challenges in plein air painting. the first is that the adaptation level of the eye is substantially higher than it is in the studio. the second is that the gamut of the palette is substantially different from the gamut of a photographic print, or of surfaces under natural light.

adjusting a photographic print so that it matches, or "looks like", some natural scene, which was the explicit strategy offered in the original post, is a failed strategy. so let's go back to the beginning.

the problem with raising the adaptation level of the eye is that *visual contrast is increased*. a color photograph viewed in dim light indoors appears washed out and muted in comparison to the same photograph viewed in sunlight, where it appears contrasty and brightly colored.

the effect on plein air painters is to produce paintings that are dull and washed out. you can see this clearly in pissaro's, cezanne's and monet's plein air landscapes, compared to their studio paintings. they saw their work in progress under brilliant light, and chose *paint contrasts* of value and color that looked fine in the field. in the gallery, under subdued light, they don't hit the mark. renoir's landscapes and figure idylls, done largely in the studio, seem translucent by comparison. (compare his plein air painting of "la grenouillere" done in 1869 with his danse scenes of moulin galette painted in the studio.)

i will bet that most of you see this adaptation effect in your own plein air work: areas (especially of green!) that seem suitably varied and contrasty in the field look somehow duller and flatter and deader in the studio. and the novice thinks, "golly, i need a new recipe for green!"

the misconception promoted by monet's dictum to "paint the retinal patch" is that plein air painters don't paint that way! to get any kind of acceptable *gallery* painting they have to *grossly overpaint* value contrasts and chroma gamuts in the field. in effect, plein air painters use a heavy dose of judgment based on experience, and a very small proportion of naive perception, to "paint what they see."

the second problem, palette gamut, should be obvious to any painter who has compared a color photographic print to a watercolor or oil, or who has compared an art catalog reproduction of a painting to the painting in the show. it's a simple fact of life that no oil, acrylic or watercolor palette can "match" the colors of natural surfaces under natural light, even when both are viewed under the same light. so while the plein air painter is trying to paint a gallery picture in full sunlight, he is also trying to adjust the gamut of his color mixtures to mimic the range of colors in the scene.

that is the crux of plein air painting skill -- not "painting what you see."

these facts suggest the original post requires three points of clarification. first: "looks like" means -- you are comparing what to what? if you want a photograph viewed in the studio that "looks like" the natural scene, then essentially you want a photograph that "looks like" a memory. because you cannot take the photograph into the field, and hold it up for comparison to the landscape, without distorting the qualities of the photograph; and you obviously cannot cut out sky and landscape and drag them into your studio, assuming this were possible, because their radiance would completely alter the color and contrast of everything in your studio, including that photograph.

if it is obvious that you can't take a photograph of a memory, then it should be obvious that the photograph is not a document but an aide memoire -- that is, you can adjust the photograph any way you want in order to get the visual qualities in the studio that you want to work from.

second: "looks like" seems to imply, "photo = memory landscape in all landscape situations," and this also is not true. one can adjust exposure or speed to finesse grayscale problems, and this has been the obsession at least since adams began teaching his zone system, but in color emulsions shooting for value significantly alters the chroma range, sometimes adversely (bleaching or biasing). with camera and film alone, the photographer usually cannot solve chroma and value problems at the same time! (if he could, what photographer would obsess over studio lighting and developing? those would be irrelevant.) worse, there are many landscape situations, especially at extremes, where film fails completely to capture the scene as seen or as remembered. (background misconception: "camera = eye in all situations.")

third: "looks like" is a standard for what painting judgment? most of the posters here seem to assume that "looks like" means -- the judgment of exact color matching. you have some mixture of "primary" dyes in the photo print that you match by a corresponding mixture of "primary" paints viewed under the same illumination. but this ignores the gamut problem -- even photorealist painters do not paint this way. and it ignores the problem of "comparable effect" -- colors matched in one situation will not have a comparable effect in some other situation.

painters do not strive for "comparable effect." they work for "inherent effect" -- a painting that "looks like itself" under a reasonably wide range of gallery and indoor lighting situations. this was my point about rejecting a "status hierarchy" in painting methods. the painting viewed by iteself is the sole locus of meaning, value, worth, veridicality, truth, beauty, whatever. not the photograph, and certainly not the landscape. (obviously, landscapes are not dear friends!)

painters do not pick up a garden trowel and shovel beauty from a landscape onto a canvas, or from a photo onto a canvas. they build the painting from paint the way a philosopher builds claims from language. paintings are *symbolic* and this is why they survive lighting vagaries: the whole color matching idea is a red herring. how does one match the color of memory? with the stuff of memories -- symbols.

there is no source of visual reference that is better than or more truthful than any other. because visual truth isn't passed from one visual medium to another, like rice from the supermarket bin to your plastic bag, from the plastic bag to your pot, from your pot to your plate, from your plate to your mouth.

there is no rice in painting.

Richard Saylor
04-06-2005, 03:31 PM
As I understood it, it was long exposure time, not overexposure, that increases saturation. The f-stop is changed to compensate so the exposure would still be "correct". Now I'm talking about my old Pentax S1-a, fully manual, with a handheld light meter, but it worked then.
No. All the film cares about is the EV. E.g., the emulsion will react exactly the same to an exposure of 1/125 @ f/5.6 as it would to an exposure of 1/500 @ f/2.8.
I also use a fully manual camera (Leica M2) with a handheld meter. It's nice having complete control of the equipment.

FriendCarol
04-06-2005, 04:26 PM
the effect on plein air painters is to produce paintings that are dull and washed out. you can see this clearly in pissaro's, cezanne's and monet's plein air landscapes, compared to their studio paintings. they saw their work in progress under brilliant light, and chose *paint contrasts* of value and color that looked fine in the field. in the gallery, under subdued light, they don't hit the mark.Just to clarify (avoid unnecessary digressions): I'm assuming you do not mean to say mature painters working en plein air produce dull/washed out paintings, just that this is the tendency of a novice. As evidence of my assumption, I see this a few paragraphs further on:
in effect, plein air painters use a heavy dose of judgment based on experience, and a very small proportion of naive perception, to "paint what they see."
and also this (further up):
i will bet that most of you see this adaptation effect in your own plein air work: areas (especially of green!) that seem suitably varied and contrasty in the field look somehow duller and flatter and deader in the studio. and the novice thinks, "golly, i need a new recipe for green!"
and finally this:
that is the crux of plein air painting skill -- not "painting what you see."
So, translation (what I think you said): skilled, experienced, plein air painters do learn to produce paintings comparable in quality to those produced in a studio. They do not produce these paintings by slavish adherence to 'reproducing what they see' (which as you say would hardly be possible, anyway).
it should be obvious that the photograph is not a document but an aide memoire -- that is, you can adjust the photograph any way you want in order to get the visual qualities in the studio that you want to work from.Why does this seem to be 'begging the question?' Taking it back to my own experience (in order to try to work out what you mean here): When I paint from a photo, the photo apparently resonates in my memory in such a way that I want to express something. (I'm leaving 'something' undefined.) Now I go about the process of arranging color on my surface in such a way as to express that, occasionally referring to the photo for details of a structure (form) or a color. I never reproduce the photo very exactly; that isn't even my goal.

Drawing on experience with recent WDE photo from which I painted: I would work with my palette colors to get what I thought I wanted, lay it on scrap paper, look up at the photo again, and say something like "no, no, it's much more intensely red than what I have here." What I wanted to capture was the red afterglow against dark trees; I did not paint the trees as dark as they looked in the photo, since I knew the photo lied about that (based on my real experience with sunset-backlit trees and a previous attempt to paint them from memory!). But in some way the photo was helping me adjust the colors as I mixed them, even though I was ignoring it for the purpose of certain other colors I mixed. (The snowfield, which I glazed with FUB, for example, I'm pretty sure I glazed much darker and bluer than the photo showed. I didn't care; I knew what I wanted there.)

My point is, the photo was a given, for me. (If there had been some structure hidden in shadows which I needed, I might have adjusted it in PhotoShop, but why might I have needed to adjust it for any other reason?) I should probably add at this point that the photo was taken in an area where I spent many years growing up, and a few weeks later someone saw my painting and said it reminded him of where he grew up -- which turned out to be less than 50 miles away. So I presume something of the colors of a winter twilight seeped into my memory, was triggered by the photo, and I used some aspects of the photo to reproduce a similar effect, over 30 years later.

You appear to be suggesting that without having experienced those conditions, I could have used the photo to, in some other way, get the experience (or documentary reference?) necessary to paint that picture. I don't understand how that could work. How could one know how to change the photo without having fully experienced the original situation? -- which is, in fact (if I'm not mistaken) quite close to Patrick's original question.

there are many landscape situations, especially at extremes, where film fails completely to capture the scene as seen or as remembered.Exactly. And then what? I suggested b&w photo in conjunction with w/c sketch will help the artist express the impression made by the scene, back in the studio. You are suggesting some manipulations of the photo? Manipulate it until some aspect of it looks familiar? Keep manipulating to capture other aspects? Sorry, I just don't follow what you are recommending.

painters do not strive for "comparable effect." they work for "inherent effect" -- a painting that "looks like itself" under a reasonably wide range of gallery and indoor lighting situations. this was my point about rejecting a "status hierarchy" in painting methods. the painting viewed by iteself is the sole locus of meaning, value, worth, veridicality, truth, beauty, whatever. not the photograph, and certainly not the landscape. (obviously, landscapes are not dear friends!)I'll leave the parenthetical remark for Larry. :)
I never heard of hyper-realism until a couple weeks ago, but then this showed up -- and in Abs/Con Forum, of all places! http://wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=259196
I remain puzzled (better description might be 'gob-smacked!'). Curious about your reaction, if you have one. If ever a painter strove for and achieved 'comparable effect,' it must be this one!

painters do not pick up a garden trowel and shovel beauty from a landscape onto a canvas, or from a photo onto a canvas. they build the painting from paint the way a philosopher builds claims from language. paintings are *symbolic* and this is why they survive lighting vagaries: the whole color matching idea is a red herring. how does one match the color of memory? with the stuff of memories -- symbols. Here, again, I am relieved to find I both understand you and agree.

there is no source of visual reference that is better than or more truthful than any other. because visual truth isn't passed from one visual medium to another, like rice from the supermarket bin to your plastic bag, from the plastic bag to your pot, from your pot to your plate, from your plate to your mouth.Here I do not agree. :rolleyes: The initial statement is (for me) very, very false. That's bad enough. (I assume I have either misunderstood what you meant, or missed some context.) Then, your 'because' does not meet my criterion for 'warrant of argument.' (I think that I'm referencing S. Toulmin's model of argument, but couldn't affirm that in a court of law; it's been 30 years since I taught it. :D )

I could IN A WAY agree with the 'because' statement as a statement, however. (Many of your posts drive me to this kind of confusion, which is why I struggle with them: an apparently untrue statement, followed or preceded by a 'because' that doesn't seem to support the statement, yet is in itself somewhat or wholly valid.)

Counter-example: If I see a person, and paint a portrait of that person, were I a three-year-old scribbling -- I assert my portrait would have less truthfulness than any produced by a skilled, honest portrait artist seeking to express that person's likeness. I also assert almost any photo (reasonably exposed and processed) would also have significantly more truthfulness than the scribble, too. I am willing to concede an abstract artist might express the portrait in a way that makes it difficult for most viewers to assess the validity of the likeness... is that where you're coming from? That subjectivity overwhelms precision of 'likeness?'

Einion
04-06-2005, 08:46 PM
i will bet that most of you see this adaptation effect in your own plein air work: areas (especially of green!) that seem suitably varied and contrasty in the field look somehow duller and flatter and deader in the studio. and the novice thinks, "golly, i need a new recipe for green!"
The preceding and this is one of the reasons I think studio painters should work under artificial lighting all the time and forget the 'ideal' of northlight, especially in light (sorry!) of the fact that most paintings will be viewed under lighting much more like an artificial lighting setup than a given day's northern-sky light anyway!

the misconception promoted by monet's dictum to "paint the retinal patch" is that plein air painters don't paint that way! to get any kind of acceptable *gallery* painting they have to *grossly overpaint* value contrasts and chroma gamuts in the field. in effect, plein air painters use a heavy dose of judgment based on experience, and a very small proportion of naive perception, to "paint what they see."
Yyyyyep. I don't think all painters who paint outdoors have this problem but I do think it is all too common and results in effects like truly violet shadows on earth colours.

if it is obvious that you can't take a photograph of a memory, then it should be obvious that the photograph is not a document but an aide memoire -- that is, you can adjust the photograph any way you want in order to get the visual qualities in the studio that you want to work from.
Exactly, and a much better one in many respects than a field colour sketch although having both would be better than either alone.

but this ignores the gamut problem -- even photorealist painters do not paint this way.
Could you clarify this point?

painters do not strive for "comparable effect." they work for "inherent effect" -- a painting that "looks like itself" ...the painting viewed by iteself is the sole locus of meaning, value, worth, veridicality, truth, beauty, whatever. not the photograph, and certainly not the landscape.
I don't agree that all painters work that way but it's a good thing to aim for IMO.


No. All the film cares about is the EV. E.g., the emulsion will react exactly the same to an exposure of 1/125 @ f/5.6 as it would to an exposure of 1/500 @ f/2.8.
Yep, until we get to reciprocity failure.

I also use a fully manual camera (Leica M2) with a handheld meter. It's nice having complete control of the equipment.
Leica, mmmmm.


I never heard of hyper-realism until a couple weeks ago, but then this showed up -- and in Abs/Con Forum, of all places! http://wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=259196
I remain puzzled (better description might be 'gob-smacked!'). Curious about your reaction, if you have one. If ever a painter strove for and achieved 'comparable effect,' it must be this one!
Oh Carol, there is true Hyperrealist work (and much of the best Photorealist work) that is so far beyond this! Apart from the patent issue of the massive reduction we're viewing them at there are a host of cues that can tell you it's a painting in most examples.

As I mentioned to you previously, in the flesh there is quite a bit of painterly effect to reward the viewer in many apparently-photographic or highly-realist painting, it's just a shame that so many people have never had the opportunity to see them up close and personal. I wish more detailed closeups of work that fits into these rough categories were published as I think it might sway, at least in part, a lot of detractors who think the work soulless.

Einion

FriendCarol
04-06-2005, 09:22 PM
there is true Hyperrealist work (and much of the best Photorealist work) that is so far beyond this! Apart from the patent issue of the massive reduction we're viewing them at there are a host of cues that can tell you it's a painting in most examples.

As I mentioned to you previously, in the flesh there is quite a bit of painterly effect to reward the viewer in many apparently-photographic or highly-realist painting, it's just a shame that so many people have never had the opportunity to see them up close and personal. I wish more detailed closeups of work that fits into these rough categories were published as I think it might sway, at least in part, a lot of detractors who think the work soulless.I never said or even thought the work was 'soulless!' (Just don't understand the why of it. Would like to, but can't.)

It's true I've never seen work like this before -- never! And I lived in NYC 20+ years (and had some artist friends, mostly studying at Art Students League; and a couple gallery owners I knew because they were in the same loft building I lived in 8 years, so I usually attended their openings). I've also been to museums in other major cities (including London, and a few days in Paris, as well as Chicago & Boston and a few others). The watercolor books I've seen -- all that are in this city's library system -- included a few of the photorealist painters, and I read them and generally didn't care for the work. (Stole some of the techniques, though. :p )
But never saw anything like hyperrealism.

Anyway, this painter works from photographs, very strictly. I thought his work relevant, in the context in which I raised it. Is there any other painter on this site who works that way? Where (preferably in the U.S., at least) could I find such paintings IRL, assuming I someday get to move around again?

P.S. How about a couple names of those you consider great hyperrealist painters?

Patrick1
04-07-2005, 02:46 AM
it's a simple fact of life that no oil, acrylic or watercolor palette can "match" the colors of natural surfaces under natural light, even when both are viewed under the same light.If the colors of the scene are within the gamut of your palette, and both viewed under the same light, why not?

Back to the crux of my original question. Suppose in the actual scene, I could see some very subtle purple in the shadowy portions of a brown dirt path or a red brick wall, but in the photo(s) of it I have at home, it's a grey so neutral that, best I try, I can't discern any hue to it at all. If I remembered that it looked like a very greyed purple, I could paint it as such, or even bump the chroma for a coloristic look. But if I didn't remember what color it was/looked, and I have no idea, then what would any of you artists do? All I can think of is 1)use my judgement from experience of what color I think it should be and 2)use my artistic judgement of what color would look best with the other colors in the painting. I then go with some mixture of 1 & 2.

drollere
04-07-2005, 05:40 AM
i regret a long post that doesn't seem to have clarified much. but at least it's there for reference.

friendcarol, you will just have to hitch yourself up to the fact that i am not going to provide piecemeal answers to your piecemeal reading of my posts. i can't be bothered. i'm sorry if this frustrates you but there it is. read the post again. if you can find a single point of nonsense on which to seek clarification, that's fine.

for example: if you really believe a photorealist painting is "gob-smackingly" identical to a photograph, then i think you need to visit more gallery exhibitions and see these works in person. if you merely want to say that a web page jpeg image of a painting looks "gob-smackingly" like a web page jpeg image of a photograph, or of your idea of a photograph, then -- what's your point?

einion wanted clarification of the gamut/photorealist issue. well, paints can't reproduce the gamut of a modern color emulsion -- especially in greens and purples, usually in darks, and in the lightening of colors from a base hue into near whites. as a general rule the "white" and "black" in photography are visibly warmer than the same colors in painting -- look at the black and whites by chuck close. it is quite obvious they are not photographs, from color alone. in addition, a careful inspection of near neutrals will almost always show that the "photorealist" work includes many nonsystematic adjustments to the near neutral hues, in part accidental and caused by hue shifts as the paints dried, in part due to strategies to compensate for a neutral appearing too cold or dull or "muddy" when copied into paint, and so on. another area where "misses" appear very obvious is in gradients from light to dark or one color to another; it is impossible to copy these exactly, unless the photo is carefully chosen. there is typically also gamut clipping on the grayscale, so that the painting looks somewhat more muted than the photograph. and if you dwell on the comparison for a long time, for example, an hour, you will eventually have no doubt that the photo and painting diverge, in a way that is consistent with your idea of painterly "style" -- quite apart from the choice of subject -- which involves limitations or habits of technique combined with controlled decisions made for esthetic reasons.

patrick1 poses what seem to be three questions that are not logically connected and are not simple.

the frame story is a that one has a memory of a color that has not been (cannot be?) documented in a photograph. the unstated assumption is that this is infrequent. i tried to say before that this is in fact the way things are -- the colors you see in one situation of lighting and adaptation cannot be reconstructed in another, period.

he then extends the frame by asking, if a painter didn't have a memory of the color, how would he paint it? answer: he wouldn't. if he doesn't have a memory of the color, or never saw it, there is nothing to paint.

he then says, ok, all i have is any photograph, what do i do, refer to my memory of situations similar to that shown in the photo, or refer to my judgment of colors that work well together as a painting, or both? and i'm saying: less and more, as far as i can tell. everything "real" -- your memories, plausibility, the photo -- is certainly useful. but what exactly, in all that, would you "copy"? and it helps to know that this blue goes with that green, but then how does that help you render light, or mood, or use color analytically rather than decoratively? there is much more than "color theory" in painting decisions.

one way to see this point is that good painters throw out a lot of paintings. they certainly love or think fondly of few of them. if painters worked in the piecemeal, bottom up, copy this or match that way that patrick describes, then they would make many, many more "hits" than they do -- even assuming that smearing wet paint or mixing matching colors were difficult, which they aren't.

drollere
04-07-2005, 05:52 AM
If the colors of the scene are within the gamut of your palette, and both viewed under the same light, why not?
well, this question seems to be a statement: of course they could match, and therefore you are wrong.

i don't have to explain *why* the world is the way it is. i just learn how it is and move on with it.

ok, so here's my request: take any real surface you want -- a piece of cheese, a bathroom tile, a wool sweater, a plaster wall, human skin, whatever -- and then match the color by painting. with whatever paints you want on whatever support you want.

if the colors do match, then you can put the painting next to your sample surface and, viewed from a distance of a few feet under the same light, the two will visually merge into a single surface. you won't see any difference between them.

let me know when you can do that.

FriendCarol
04-07-2005, 01:14 PM
If I didn't know you to be capable of writing well-reasoned text, I would not have spent a very long time trying to disentangle the jumble of your previous post. Some of it was merely jumbled is such a way that it might have come across as unecessarily provocative to other readers, so I unjumbled it. (This merely to prevent pointless, tiresome, time-wasting arguments about the capabilities of some of our very capable plein air painters who might happen to read it.)

Some of it made sense. You no doubt have reason for what you say. Either you have failed to communicate what you are saying in such a way that we can follow it; or your assertions do mean what we understand them to mean, but the evidence or warrant you offered does not pertain to your assertions.

Both Patrick and I (it seems) are still puzzled over one assertion: that photographs are superior to a color sketch and can be used in the studio to recover (though manipulations) useful color information while painting. Our question is: How do you propose he should get from the photograph to a referent for color in the studio? We both believe (I think) making some other record of what we see en plein air will prove more useful in the studio. (I think in Patrick's case the 'other record' is memory; for me the 'other record' is a decision on palette plus verbal notes of the effect I want to produce.)
Your latest post:[Patrick] then says, ok, all i have is any photograph, what do i do, refer to my memory of situations similar to that shown in the photo, or refer to my judgment of colors that work well together as a painting, or both?Yes, this is the question.
and i'm saying: less and more, as far as i can tell. everything "real" -- your memories, plausibility, the photo -- is certainly useful. but what exactly, in all that, would you "copy"? and it helps to know that this blue goes with that green, but then how does that help you render light, or mood, or use color analytically rather than decoratively? there is much more than "color theory" in painting decisions.How is 'less and more' an answer? (Hypothesis as to your meaning: Less memory of situations similar to that shown in photo; more judgment of colors that work well together. Yes? No?)

As to 'what would you copy,' surely we all agree by now we are not actually copying anything, so on to the next part: "How does that help you render light, or mood, or use color analytically rather than decoratively?" Perhaps you meant to limit the scope of that question to 'helps to know that this blue goes with that green,' in which case the answer, obviously, is 'it doesn't.' But let's assume the question is more general. Then the question essentially is: 'How does analysis help us synthesize?'

How does ANALYSIS help us SYNTHESIZE?

Does it? YES! How? The creative process includes periodic (or less regular) evaluation of results to date, and analysis informs that evaluation.

And that is ALL. But it's also quite a lot.

No doubt experience (either long, or fully reflected upon consciously as well as -- mostly -- without conscious attention) contributes to the development of tools/techniques/manipulations/materials which may be variously combined. Nevertheless, creativity remains mysterious; little is clearly understood.

Some cognitive psychologists posit that at a subliminal level, the combining process goes on more or less continuously (and randomly!), for all questions in which the person has an interest, and that only when some 'solution' is satisfactory at some level does this rise to the level of consciousness. The 'solution' often rises through the mechanism of something like a dream. This may work for creative scientists and other problem solvers, but it certainly won't work for a painter! As a painter, I find it very helpful to work with a predetermined, very limited palette to achieve a specific expression -- although I'm not very competent at rendering complex shapes, I can certainly generate meaningful colors, with reference to the image that inspired me. It's not exactly random play, but a certain amount of 'try this' goes on. So I try it, I see I'm 'getting warmer' or 'getting cooler' (analysis again) -- if I'm getting warmer I continue, if not I grab another technique/material etc. and give that a try.

My analysis en plein air (or while looking at a photograph, whatever) determines that limited palette which I know (how? I don't know how to tell you that -- you can say experience if you wish; imo I am using a multidimensional color theory, some essential character of which I cannot convey to you for some reason)... which I know will allow me to express (or come very close to expressing) a critical moment of my experience at the scene.

Hope this helps, Patrick!

drollere
04-08-2005, 12:01 AM
Either you have failed to communicate what you are saying in such a way that we can follow it; or your assertions do mean what we understand them to mean, but the evidence or warrant you offered does not pertain to your assertions. Both Patrick and I (it seems) are still puzzled over one assertion: that photographs are superior to a color sketch ...
unfortunately i think the nub is this, friendcarol: you seem to respond to a post before you have tried to understand it.

there is a specific symptom of this: you have misquoted me in previous attempts at exchanges with me. then i only mentioned it in passing. now i want to call it explicitly to your attention, without distracting issues.

here's your task: go back through the posts by drollere, and find the specific sentence that says, "photographs are superior to a color sketch."

i believe i pretty clearly emphasized the point that i reject a "status hierarchy" in painting reference materials, or painting techniques, or painting aims, or painting traditions: the painting itself is the locus of meaning and value. in fact, i don't think i ever mentioned a color sketch, one way or another.

but i don't want to distract you. your task is simply to go back through the posts by drollere and find the sentence that says, "photographs are superior to a color sketch."

FriendCarol
04-08-2005, 01:27 AM
I assure you I spend a great deal of time attempting to understand your posts.

Very early in this thread I recommended taking a photo (b/w possibly being preferable) to note structure and values, and making a field sketch for color notes. (I specifically noted the sketch should require a minimal palette, just to record an impression, and be supplemented with verbal description; this was obviously not a recommendation to copy precise colors, then to be copied again in the studio.) You subsequently recommended taking a photograph and then manipulating it to get useful information. While you did not specifically address the question of a field sketch, you did specifically state that plein air work (which I naturally assumed includes a minimal onsite sketch!) would be misleading or inaccurate, unless the sketcher was an experienced, skilled plein air painter who had learned to compensate:
the effect on plein air painters is to produce paintings that are dull and washed out.
Then, Einion quoted you as saying:
if it is obvious that you can't take a photograph of a memory, then it should be obvious that the photograph is not a document but an aide memoire -- that is, you can adjust the photograph any way you want in order to get the visual qualities in the studio that you want to work from.and Einion responded:
Exactly, and a much better one in many respects than a field colour sketch although having both would be better than either alone.
From this whole series of posts, I assumed you were implying a photograph was somehow more useful than a sketch; my assumption was based on your emphasis on manipulating a photograph coupled with your denigration of 'amateur' plein air work.

Regardless, I then said:
Both Patrick and I (it seems) are still puzzled over one assertion: that photographs are superior to a color sketch and can be used in the studio to recover (though manipulations) useful color information while painting. Our question is: How do you propose he should get from the photograph to a referent for color in the studio?
You quoted only the first (and less important) part of what I said: 'are superior to a color sketch' -- which as I just explained, I had assumed, based on your denigration of plein air work as you emphasized manipulating the photo. Perhaps my assumption was in error, and if so I apologize; perhaps you now are saying the opposite. Are you? Though, as Patrick said he was not experienced at plein air, I don't understand if you now support the recommendation for a color sketch onsite, having already stated it would be dull and washed out. Einion said both would be useful. So, what do you mean to say on this specific point?

I'm not trying to argue with you, just trying to understand what you are saying will be most helpful for Patrick.

Patrick1
04-09-2005, 03:08 AM
ok, so here's my request: take any real surface you want -- a piece of cheese, a bathroom tile, a wool sweater, a plaster wall, human skin, whatever -- and then match the color by painting. with whatever paints you want on whatever support you want.

if the colors do match, then you can put the painting next to your sample surface and, viewed from a distance of a few feet under the same light, the two will visually merge into a single surface. you won't see any difference between them.

let me know when you can do that.
You're asking me to use paints to color-match the color of an object or a single surface, as opposed to actually painting a picture of a three-dimensional object, right? That's what it sounds like. Can the surface be a single-colored flat surface, and can I just paint up a small color sample?

Einion
04-09-2005, 08:58 AM
einion wanted clarification of the gamut/photorealist issue. well, paints can't reproduce the gamut of a modern color emulsion -- especially in greens and purples, usually in darks, and in the lightening of colors from a base hue into near whites. as a general rule the "white" and "black" in photography are visibly warmer than the same colors in painting -- look at the black and whites by chuck close. it is quite obvious they are not photographs, from color alone. in addition, a careful inspection of near neutrals will almost always show that the "photorealist" work includes many nonsystematic adjustments to the near neutral hues, in part accidental and caused by hue shifts as the paints dried, in part due to strategies to compensate for a neutral appearing too cold or dull or "muddy" when copied into paint, and so on. another area where "misses" appear very obvious is in gradients from light to dark or one color to another; it is impossible to copy these exactly, unless the photo is carefully chosen. there is typically also gamut clipping on the grayscale, so that the painting looks somewhat more muted than the photograph. and if you dwell on the comparison for a long time, for example, an hour, you will eventually have no doubt that the photo and painting diverge, in a way that is consistent with your idea of painterly "style" -- quite apart from the choice of subject -- which involves limitations or habits of technique combined with controlled decisions made for esthetic reasons.
Thanks, very interesting analysis of the methodology. I agree with many of the points without having put them into so many words - muted value structure is the most obvious, particularly in the earlier work, and the problem with reproducing gradients, particularly those than move in more than one direction, is one that still plagues painters seeking a photo-real or hyper-real portrayal.

paints can't reproduce the gamut of a modern color emulsion -- especially in greens and purples, usually in darks, and in the lightening of colors from a base hue into near whites.
Accurate tints are indeed a big issue and while I'd be the first to agree than any limited palette would not have a wide enough latitude - including the much-lauded CMY - using a larger palette in oils and acrylics the gamut should be more than large enough to encompass that of a three-colour dye emulsion and permit the matching of colour in darks. And with little or no drying shift in terms of hue or saturation, near-neutrals, a problem area for most of us, are a lot easier to match with the paint I'm sure, although identifying them accurately first and then physically making them are the hard parts of course!

Einion

FriendCarol
04-09-2005, 10:29 AM
...using a larger palette in oils and acrylics the gamut should be more than large enough to encompass that of a three-colour dye emulsion and permit the matching of colour in darks. And with little or no drying shift in terms of hue or saturation, near-neutrals, a problem area for most of us, are a lot easier to match....Einion, are you saying oils and acrylics don't have much of a drying shift? This would be interesting, because w/c on Yupo also doesn't have much of a drying shift. I've just started experimenting with it -- I think use of additional gum arabic is going to prove a critical breakthrough -- so I'm more than merely curious now. If gamut is significantly greater for oils and acrylics because of w/c's drying shift, I'm more motivated to stick with Yupo for awhile, despite the necessity to invent new techniques to accomplish just about everything (starting with a basic wash!). :)

Someone else in w/c also suggested using a varnish instead of framing with glass; that also increases the brilliance of colors nearer to what they were when wet. Guess I should explore that, too, someday.

Einion
04-09-2005, 11:39 AM
I never said or even thought the work was 'soulless!' (Just don't understand the why of it. Would like to, but can't.)
Hi Carol, sorry forgot about your question. I think if you read what I posted you'll find I didn't say you did, it's just an example of a derogatory term with which the work is described by some people, most of whom haven't have seen any in the flesh.

The why is not really that hard to understand at its most basic, it is a desire to reproduce the reality of a photograph in paint, at large size usually. There are a host of rationalisations and justifications that might overlay this, some are used by the artists themselves but some are projected by critics and other pundits, which in many cases I'm sure have little or no bearing on the issue (as is so often true of critical appraisal!)

This (http://www.mshadow.com/illusions/Vol2pp1.htm) is worth reading, and on to page two (http://www.mshadow.com/illusions/vol2pp2.htm).

It's true I've never seen work like this before -- never! And I lived in NYC 20+ years (and had some artist friends, mostly studying at Art Students League; and a couple gallery owners I knew because they were in the same loft building I lived in 8 years, so I usually attended their openings).... But never saw anything like hyperrealism...
It's a big world so one shouldn't be surprised, every one of us will have areas that are unknown to us, even discounting the completely obscure, but we've just never come across it. I'm still shocked when I discover 'new' artists from the past, especially a really significant figure like Willem Claesz Heda or Franz Xaver Messerschmidt.

Anyway, this painter works from photographs, very strictly. I thought his work relevant, in the context in which I raised it.
Although the methodology is supposedly one of the distinguishing features between Photorealism and Hyperrealism the distinction is hardly valid, given that Photorealists work in a dozen different ways and most Hyperrealists work from photos. In reality I think some artists just elect to be associated with one label or the other (and some don't care either way I would guess) and it's up to the viewer to decide whether a photo-real painting is, in spirit, a Hyperrealist work, as I might in a number of cases if asked, but the distinction is often irrelevant to me.

Is there any other painter on this site who works that way?
Yes, Paul Corfield.

Where (preferably in the U.S., at least) could I find such paintings IRL, assuming I someday get to move around again?
Louis K. Meisel's gallery (http://www.meiselgallery.com/contents.htm), it's a shame you never got to visit while you were in New York.

How about a couple names of those you consider great hyperrealist painters?
Well the first name that always comes to my mind is Gottfried Helnwein (http://www.helnwein.com/), you should be impressed with the watercolours in particular! These (http://www.gottfriedhelnwein.ie/country/ireland_special/artikel_1930.html) landscapes are stunning in reality, although up close and personal (nose-pressing distance) they raise some questions about the method used.

There are a few wildlife painters whose work I would consider realistic enough to make some distinction of, particularly IMO Raymond Harris-Ching and Carl Brenders, whose watercolour and gouache work is to die for. Larry could probably suggest a few others in this field having rubbed shoulders with them but Brenders is the king.

Then there are some of the Japanese illustrators (also painting in watercolour in many cases) some of whom produce work of the highest calibre that is largely unknown in the West except to the design sector and those whose lives intersect with illustration in some other way. Hajime Sorayama is probably the best known, also Hideaki Kodama, Masao Saito and Yosuke Onishi, but the most impressive technically is probably Toshikuni Ohkubo, the absolute master of masking it would appear, his work is just unbelievable in terms of sharp-focus realism.

I'll just throw out a few more names of work that one may or may not categorise as Hyperrealist that you might want look at: John Kacere, David Finnigan, Damian Loeb, Cesar Santander, Anthony Ross, Ben Schonzeit, Bert Monroy (digital), Thomas Arvid, Chuck Close, Steve Mills and for more have a look at HyperRealism.net (http://www.hyperrealism.net/).

Einion

Einion
04-09-2005, 12:12 PM
Einion, are you saying oils and acrylics don't have much of a drying shift? This would be interesting, because w/c on Yupo also doesn't have much of a drying shift.
Yup, in oils if you work carefully and the paint isn't underbound there can be practically no drying shift once you're above the very thin underpainting layers. Matt drying would of course make the paint's appearance change from the wet state.

In acrylics certain brands are better than others, darkening upon drying is a major bugbear (and part of the steep learning curve for the medium) caused by the binder changing from milky to clear as the water evaporates; some are made specifically to minimise the problem. It's also slightly colour dependant, dark colours being more prone in general of course, as well as being more prevalent when you add a lot of water and certain mediums.

I've just started experimenting with it -- I think use of additional gum arabic is going to prove a critical breakthrough -- so I'm more than merely curious now.
You might try gelatine too, with or without modest additions of honey.

If gamut is significantly greater for oils and acrylics because of w/c's drying shift, I'm more motivated to stick with Yupo for awhile, despite the necessity to invent new techniques to accomplish just about everything (starting with a basic wash!). :)
It's not an absolute, but you don't often paint as thinly in the other two media, and not on surfaces that act like paper's in most cases either. The difference in the refractive indices of the binders and the coat thickness are the major determinants, as well as surface gloss, so it's very difficult to get the same value range in watercolours.

Someone else in w/c also suggested using a varnish instead of framing with glass; that also increases the brilliance of colors nearer to what they were when wet. Guess I should explore that, too, someday.
While that is true of varnishing I wouldn't varnish a watercolour, regardless of the support it was painted on, ever.

Einion

drollere
04-10-2005, 12:31 PM
I assure you I spend a great deal of time attempting to understand your posts. ... You quoted only the first (and less important) part of what I said: 'are superior to a color sketch' -- which as I just explained, I had assumed, based on your denigration of plein air work as you emphasized manipulating the photo. Perhaps my assumption was in error, and if so I apologize; perhaps you now are saying the opposite. Are you? Though, as Patrick said he was not experienced at plein air, I don't understand if you now support the recommendation for a color sketch onsite, having already stated it would be dull and washed out. Einion said both would be useful. So, what do you mean to say on this specific point? I'm not trying to argue with you, just trying to understand what you are saying will be most helpful for Patrick.
this reply illustrates some of the problems i was alluding to, friendcarol.

first, is your reliance on false assumptions which seems very poorly anchored in anything i actually said. i see you have not found the phrase i asked you to search for, and this is, i think, a pretty serious challenge to your skill at developing assumptions that might be useful.

second is your unrestrained misquoting. i'll point out that einion also implies that you misquote him in his last post ("I think if you read what I posted you'll find I didn't say you did"); it's not only drollere's ideas you distort. and i'll copy here two of my previous comments, the first relevant to my supposed "denigration of plein air work":

"i heartily agree with larry's endorsement of plein air, and i really believe you should try it, if only to understand a little what all the gab is about." (post #6)

and the second relevant to your claim that because i "emphasized manipulating the photo" i must have been therefore denegrating the plein air sketch:

"for me the point is: what does a photograph represent to you [patrick] as a source of painting? i took from your [patrick's] question that you had a *technical* problem with the use of photographs, but i wasn't sure what that was. ... i think a major point is that you shouldn't think of the photograph as a unitary object. you can convert it to grayscale to study the value structure; you can increase chroma to analyze the basic colors; you can shift the hue or lightness or contrast to manipulate the image; you can use the pixelate functions to simplify or stylize the forms; and so on. you might do several of these things to the same photo and print them all out, in which case you wouldn't be painting from a photo but from a family or cluster of photos -- and why not?" (post #6)

finally, friendcarol, you seem by your own report enmeshed in the very odd project of manipulating a discussion so that some participants can be brought to say something that, in friendcarol's mind, will be useful to some third participant (in this case, patrick -- "I'm ... just trying to understand what you are saying will be most helpful for Patrick."). this comes out, for example, in your attempt to hybridize a dialog by throwing together separate comments by drollere and einion, as if they were actually talking to (rather than past) each other.

all i can say is that this triangulation of inference and interest on behalf of someone else is probably only going to confuse things as much as your false assumptions and misquotings do.

patrick is a big boy and he can take care of his questions. einion is a big boy and he can take care of his questions. if *you* have questions, then you certainly should raise them on your own behalf. otherwise i'd suggest that assuming the role of information referee is not really appropriate in a public bulletin board, and for which false assumptions and misquotings would in any case be probable grounds for disqualification.

drollere
04-10-2005, 01:12 PM
You're asking me to use paints to color-match the color of an object or a single surface, as opposed to actually painting a picture of a three-dimensional object, right? That's what it sounds like. Can the surface be a single-colored flat surface, and can I just paint up a small color sample?
yes, your reply is right on the money. you instinctively reached for two clarifications. you first wanted to know if the color had to be viewed as a formless surface or as an actual object; and you wanted clarification on the retinal size of the color samples.

to your questions: yes and yes. i mean, the illustration was meant to be conceptual, but if you really want to make the attempt, i urge you to do so, because it will be instructive of how difficult it is to "copy" a color from one medium (say, cheese) into another medium (paints).

that is, however, a tangential way to refute the "color copying" idea. the direct attack is: COLOR NEEDS CONTEXT. a lot of what i have been saying about the difference between outdoor landscape color and gallery painting color, or the infeasibility of "copying" a color from one context to another, turns on that basic concept.

here is one example: you're in a landscape, and the sky is over your head. larry is right, the encounter here will be splendid, and whatever you may conclude about the sky as a tiny patch of spectral radiation or "color" in the abstract, the sky as a landscape feature is something grand and spectacular and truly overwhelming.

my claim is this: if you "copied" the color of the sky as a patch of spectral radiation *into a painting,* what you'd end up with is something duller, drabber, completely lacking that grand, spectacular and overwhelming landscape effect:

(1) the painting edits your view of the sky to a narrow slice along a small part of the horizon, so the representation is greatly distorted just in terms of visual area;
(2) the adaptation level of your eye will be lower in the gallery, so the matched reflectance in the field will appear too dark to match your memory of the color; and
(3) the flat color will not capture the qualitative visual effects of grandeur that include the transparency and airiness of the color and its seemingly infinite depth.

therefore, you would judgmentally adjust the color so that it did *not* match the sky in a literal, side by side color comparison sense, in order to address these (and other) problems. and you might use brushstroke gestures, paint glazing, pigment granulation, or any of the dozens of tricks possible with *real paints* separate from abstract color descriptions ("a purplish shadow") to further achieve your ends.

here is another line of attack: go to http://www.purveslab.net/, click on the "interactive demos" link, and explore the visual examples presented there. you will see that color is highly dependent on context. the extent of this problem is, in some examples, really startling.

all my posts have, in effect, attacked the basic concept of "color copying" independent of an embracing visual context, which i found implied in patrick's original post and in his focus on carrying a purplish shadow, like a scoop of rice, from one context to another; and if readers will scroll through this thread and read my color comments as a series, this focus should be obvious.

for example, patrick suggested that a painter wanting to render a landscape color might (in paraphrase) "use judgment of what the color should be, or use colors that harmonize well together, or some of both" and i replied that a painter would do both less and more.

less, because the goal is not a literal copying, and therefore direct observation of the color, as a color, or a memory of the color, as a color, is not the operative standard. i've tried to explain why "color copying" is actually a standard that painters do not actually rise to -- whether it's a painting copying a landscape, or a painting copying a photograph, or a painting copying a surface. they construct the colors appropriate for the painting *as a painting.*

more, because that grand sky almost certainly cannot be reduced to the decorative color problem of harmonizing color areas. in painting colors are used symbolically, not literally, and colors that clash or vibrate may be one way to signal the vibrating intensity of the sky. (certainly, enhanced chroma is another plausible way.) to use color symbolically or analytically, much more is needed than simple "color theory" rules about complementary colors, color harmonies, color schemes, and the like.

drollere
04-10-2005, 01:38 PM
while I'd be the first to agree than any limited palette would not have a wide enough latitude - including the much-lauded CMY - using a larger palette in oils and acrylics the gamut should be more than large enough to encompass that of a three-colour dye emulsion and permit the matching of colour in darks.
yes, it's important to specify exactly *what* colorants or paint palettes are being compared, but my general claim is not specifically a gamut one, although my post starts with that claim.

starting with gamuts specifically: i have constructed comparisons of watercolor paint and printing ink gamuts, for example at http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/color4.html#gamut, and in that comparison the gamut of the inks is clearly larger, specifically in the purples and greens. i believe a similar comparison between the largest possible gamut of a three dye photographic print and a matching acrylic palette will produce similar, though smaller, discrepancies in favor of the print. that's a testable claim and we can look for evidence to address it.

it is possible to get a much larger gamut in acrylics, allowing for example fluorescing pigments into the mix, but the sense of my post was that a photo and painting, forced into the same gamut space, would still be discernably different, and i believe that the photograph would produce a "richer" effect within the same color space.

the physical fact of dyes in photographic paper is quite different from the physical fact of an acrylic layer. i assert that color requires context, and for most colors in most situations the physical locus of the color is a big part of its context; and in my experience the colors of the two media are fairly obviously different for that reason. i have seen many large format photographs and photorealist paintings (primarily in new york galleries) and i have never been confused about the difference between them, on first viewing and from a distance. (relevant also is the dialog with patrick on copying a colored surface into paints.)

the giclee print of a watercolor painting is a good counterexample, because i have seen prints with colors indistinguishable from the original, provided the original and print were done on identical paper and the inks and paints used identical pigments and both were viewed from a distance that obscured paint granulation and texturing. but even here, most giclee prints are obviously not watercolor paintings.

i sympathize with your implied regret at my using "so many words," but i am learning there are certain ideas deeply entrenched among participants here and i am trying different ways to surface and dislodge them.

drollere
04-10-2005, 02:32 PM
my comments to einion left me feeling very dissatisfied, and i can offer two points of clarification.

i think we seriously misinterpret the gamut comparisons between media as a kind of "acreage" issue of larger or smaller color spaces. the hidden flaw in that comparison is the issue of granularity or density of unique colors.

for example, a gif image and an jpg image are usually pretty obviously different, even in a grayscale comparison with equal white and black values, because the gif colors are not as continuous or finely divided. i believe it is generally true that a painting done by a human hand has a smaller actual range of unique discrete values within equal gamuts, and that this is apparent to the viewer.

i can offer various plausible "tests" of this statement. for example, a photograph of a flat piece of gray satin will produce a more even (consistent, continuously divided) value distribution than a piece of drawing paper shaded by hand (stumping or smudging not allowed), simply because the hand cannot reproduce at a microscopic level the perfectly random distribution of dye particles in the photograph.

within the gamut, and even assuming an equal number of unique colors in each, i think the painting will simply be visibly inaccurate not because it does not match the photograph but because it does not match the image which was captured in the photograph. that is, we have deep experience of the nature of things and the behavior of light, and this cannot be reproduced with complete fidelity by the hand eye mechanism, compared to the "blind" photographic mechanism.

for example, we can generate a large, multimillions color photographic print using the computer calculation of a complex area of the mandelbrot fractal set, then make a painting of that, and it will be obvious in the comparison that the painting is only a paraphrase. this in effect poses the "color density" problem as "spatial detail" problem, but the source of the discrepancy is the same.

we could also take spectrophotometric measurements of a photograph and an identically formatted painting, millimeter by millimeter, pour the measurements in a computer, and compute discrepancy scores. my conjecture is that the discrepancy scores would not be small and random, but small and systematic, and it is the systematic biases in the color that make us recognize the painting.

i think i am stating an explicit rule of visual comparison: we compare a photograph and a hyperrealist painting and our equation is actually something like this:

"wow, that sure is insanely detailed [for a photograph] = wow, that sure is insanely detailed [for a painting]"

and it is the bracketed insertions, based on experience with both photographs and paintings, that make the comparison plausible. but the bracketed adjustments are only the function of our rampant mental habit of contextualizing or relativising colors, which obscures the perceptual facts.

Patrick1
04-12-2005, 03:08 AM
to your questions: yes and yes. i mean, the illustration was meant to be conceptual, but if you really want to make the attempt, i urge you to do so, because it will be instructive of how difficult it is to "copy" a color from one medium (say, cheese) into another medium (paints).
Okay...though I don't have any desire to make paintings by merely copying colors I see in the world (I always add my own color stylization to capture the essence of the scene as I saw & remembered it), here is my color copy. I chose to match the back side of a piece of wood flooring. I painted on a gessoed piece of masking tape, taped to a card to keep it flat. I used three acrylics: hansa yellow light, pyrrole red light, and ultramarine violet. And gesso for white. I painted on the initial color, and then used thin glazes to tweak closer & closer to the target color. Covering the left part so you can't see where the sample meets the board, and then standing back a few feet, it's pretty darned close to blending in. Not bad, n'est pas? If I had more time to tweak, I could've gotten closer still. Observations:

1) the lighting plays a big role. I painted it under mostly daylight, with some incandescent. If I move the sample & board to a different light than that under which I painted it, a difference in hue between the two will show up; my sample will then be a bit too reddish, or yellowish/'greenish'. Metamerism is at play here. I could've tried iron oxide pigments (which is what I suspect is the pigment(s) in the floor's coating).

2) the angle/plane that the sample is held at is critical; if it's off, it won't match well. I suspect that differing gloss levels play a role. And I suspect this would be more problematic the larger the painting because light would be coming in from different angles depending on the eyes' viewing angle.

Marc Sabatella
04-12-2005, 04:02 PM
Okay...though I don't have any desire to make paintings by merely copying colors I see in the world (I always add my own color stylization to capture the essence of the scene as I saw & remembered it), here is my color copy.


Not bad, but I think it sort of misses the point. This works only because you are able to hold your swatch in the same light as the object. In the real world, not everything is actually seen in the same light. In particular, nothing on your canvas hanging indoors is going to be as light as a white object in direct sunlight, nor as dark as a black object in deep shade. These are just the extremes, of course, but that speaks to the difficulty of the problem in general. That's why simply "painting what you see" is an oversimplification.

Patrick1
04-14-2005, 12:52 AM
Not bad, but I think it sort of misses the point. This works only because you are able to hold your swatch in the same light as the object. In the real world, not everything is actually seen in the same light. In particular, nothing on your canvas hanging indoors is going to be as light as a white object in direct sunlight, nor as dark as a black object in deep shade. These are just the extremes, of course, but that speaks to the difficulty of the problem in general. That's why simply "painting what you see" is an oversimplification.
Marc, my color matching here is my response to drollere's request in post #37 to try to copy the color of a surface so that it visually blends in when viewed from a few feet distance under the same light. If he had asked me to get them to match under differing lighting conditions, or other conditions, then I would've said "Let me see you do that!".

The point about the futility of trying to merely copy color from the scene (or how I saw it) onto a painting indoors has been made and is well taken. Drollere's comment to strive for inherent effect as opposed to comparative effect...it took me a few days to figure out what he meant, but when I did, it was a light bulb going off...that getting an effect is done by material techniques and color relationships within the painting, not by matching them to an external scene, image or idea. About right?

FriendCarol
04-14-2005, 08:24 AM
getting an effect is done by material techniques and color relationships within the painting, not by matching them to an external scene, image or idea.That's how I read it, Patrick. But in addition, I subordinate 'accuracy' to design principles (such as unity and harmony of color) by coming up with the most limited palette I can devise that I believe will still capture whatever in the scene essentially had that effect on me. (Note: I think it's that word 'essentially' that makes me, at heart, an abstract painter. I'm calling myself an 'expressive abstractionist,' since 'abstract expressionism' is already taken, and I'm certainly not that! :) )

So my process is: see it, react to it, become consciously aware of my reaction (and reflect on it consciously or unconsciously), and -- if color is a big part of it, as it almost always is -- devise a palette which should allow me to recreate the effect (not the scene). The verbal (generally mental, not written) notes are usually enough to complete my impressions, but a photo would be very helpful if a specific structure (a distinctive tree, perhaps) is involved. (Fortunately, I can usually find enough ref photos online to give me correct details for landscapes, which is about all I react to visually that's out there in the world.) B/W photos (manipulated) might help you get your values right, too, though they're pretty worthless for me; I better identify form from color photos. :D

Congratulations on completing your assignment (and learning from it)! :evil:

drollere
04-15-2005, 03:08 PM
no, i give patrick1 full points for making the effort and coming as close as he did. and by god, anyone who will take that much trouble to see for himself is going to go places with his painting. rock on, dude.

i don't want to go into the color matching requirements or stipulations, since i think all that is a red herring. but for a real horror show: look at the color match in sunlight, under fluorescent light, under halogen light, under tungsten light, and under any colored light.

the point for me is simply that patrick1 probably (or seems) to have understood a little more clearly what "copying" actually involves, and how this is (1) very dependent on color context (lighting, angle, all that), (2) pretty hard to put into words, exactly, in terms of how it is actually done, and (3) almost certainly *not* what he would do when making a painting.

i cited the demonstrations by dale purves (at http://www.purveslab.net/) simply to show that our visual judgment of color attributes can be wildly wrong when compared to an objective color measurement of the local color patches we are trying to compare. i think this gets to a large part of the problem with "copying," and therefore making a photograph that one can "copy" to get equivalent colors.

it also illustrates how colors are determined by their context, which is another way of saying that painters do not arduously match one purplish colored patch to a color standard, and then the next, and the next, and so on until the painting is finished -- they set up a vibrating color context, all colors influencing all other colors, and sometimes adjust one color area by changing the color of something else.

if patrick took a photo of his wood flooring, and tried to match the flooring by matching the photo, or tried to match the wood flooring color from memory, or tried to match the flooring by separating it from his painting surface by ten feet, or (most appropriate) put the color sample in bright landscape sunlight and painted it there and then compared the colors indoors -- or any other "painting method" that represents in a literal way how landscape painting might be done -- he could test the validity of the claim that these painting methods actually are ways of "copying" a landscape.

he could also weigh the fundamental accuracy or truthfulness of "copying" as a description of how painting works.

i believe that photos can be useful and they can be used in many different ways: but the start and end of my contribution has been that those uses produce their own effects and have their own value for a painter aiming toward a particular goal, and in all cases their use and effect is not "copying" in any meaningful sense of the word.

drollere
04-15-2005, 03:28 PM
i left hanging the discussion of "gamut" with einion. as i really dislike claims made without evidence i thought about this for a while until i realized that i had the resources to test the media gamuts for myself -- or most of them, anyway.

i've attached a gif image of a gamut comparison among:
1. watercolors
2. acrylics
3. CYM inks
4. apple RGB (color monitor)

the first two are based on my own measurements of paint samples, the last two are based on a report on gamuts presented to the 1997 CIE experts symposium by isis imaging. 2 specifically is based on hand painted color swatches supplied by tri arts acrylics.

1 and 2 were compared using color swatches of pure pigment paints matched by color index name.

in the image, 2 is slightly larger than 1, especially in the "warm" colors. (i think the acrylic cool darks are underestimated and would brighten if a little white were added to open up the color.) also, the acrylics get a dark value of around 12 in comparison to the 20 or so possible in watercolors. in all, then, i'd say acrylics have a gamut about 10% larger, in chroma and value, than watercolors.

the CYM gamut is smaller than both, although it exceeds the paint gamut in some areas, either because a dye rather than a pigment, or a nonlightfast pigment, was used in the inks.

the monitor gamut is effect equal but different. greens vs. violets seem to define the monitor gamut variance, whereas in paints it is oranges vs. cyans. a color photograph presented on a monitor would therefore exceed the gamut of paints, assuming the gamut limits were sampled in the image.

i don't have the gamut of a modern color print emulsion, but i strongly feel, based on huge format color prints i saw recently in new york, that photos equal or exceed the gamut of acrylic paints in many areas of the gamut.

in any case, i'm increasingly of a mind that biases in color matching judgments, as revealed in the purves demonstrations, and the nonsystematic or nonrandom sampling of the gamut space that results (when compared to the actual physical variations in lighting and color, as captured in a photograph) are the fundamental reasons why even "photorealist" paintings are obviously different from the photos they are made from and, again, why "copying" is not really what goes on when a painting is made.

Einion
04-16-2005, 12:41 PM
the giclee print of a watercolor painting is a good counterexample, because i have seen prints with colors indistinguishable from the original, provided the original and print were done on identical paper and the inks and paints used identical pigments and both were viewed from a distance that obscured paint granulation and texturing.
That's good to know, I tried to make this point in a prior thread.

It's when a giclee print is compared to a painting using a wider palette that the limitations tend to show up most strongly, plus the output of different giclees is not created equal by any means (even past the variables of creating the digital data).

i sympathize with your implied regret at my using "so many words,"...
Ah, sorry I didn't mean it that way. This might be an English/American thing I wasn't aware of, "in so many words" is just an idiomatic way of saying something like "in quite that way", there's no negative connotation I assure you. I am more than happy to read through wordy posts when they are based on sound research and reasoning.

...but i am learning there are certain ideas deeply entrenched...
Agreed.

i think we seriously misinterpret the gamut comparisons between media as a kind of "acreage" issue of larger or smaller color spaces. the hidden flaw in that comparison is the issue of granularity or density of unique colors.
Largely true I'm sure.

within the gamut, and even assuming an equal number of unique colors in each, i think the painting will simply be visibly inaccurate not because it does not match the photograph but because it does not match the image which was captured in the photograph. that is, we have deep experience of the nature of things and the behavior of light, and this cannot be reproduced with complete fidelity by the hand eye mechanism, compared to the "blind" photographic mechanism.
Yep. It is in massive reductions - with their inherent re-creation of the reality of the painting, coupled with the number of steps removed it may be - that photo-real work achieves a greater appearance of fidelity. As you say, in the flesh one is almost never in any doubt about whether a painting is a painting, even at a distance. The Irish landscapes by Gottfried Helnwein I mentioned in another thread for example, in reproductions look startlingly photographic, but in person from about ten metres away (about as far as the gallery space allowed) they are clearly paintings, at least to an educated eye, and this is more and more obvious the closer you get.

i left hanging the discussion of "gamut" with einion. as i really dislike claims made without evidence i thought about this for a while until i realized that i had the resources to test the media gamuts for myself -- or most of them, anyway.
Excellent, thanks very much.

the CYM gamut is smaller than both, although it exceeds the paint gamut in some areas, either because a dye rather than a pigment, or a nonlightfast pigment, was used in the inks.
I think there's another possible interpretation. Thinner applications of the paints on a high-white ground - as the CMY gamut would surely have been measured - would yield a wider gamut than the masstone readings alone would imply, as for a number of pigments (the obvious synthetics in particular) chroma increases in undercolour, as well as when tinted slightly as you mention.

Thanks for the link to the interactive demos above BTW, I just love the Craik-O'Brien-Cornsweet effect, it's always nice to see another illustration of it. And the illustration of colour constancy is stunning!


Not bad, n'est pas? If I had more time to tweak, I could've gotten closer still.
Nice job Patrick! I know from experience how hard this can be, both conceptually and from a practical standpoint.

I would have bet on the likelihood of a metameric effect given the paints used, it's something that they have to be very careful of when retouching paintings so both their lighting and pigment choices are made carefully.

...iron oxide pigments (which is what I suspect is the pigment(s) in the floor's coating).
Almost certainly, plus TW possibly. If I had to put money on it using iron oxides yourself would remove the metamerism.

the angle/plane that the sample is held at is critical; if it's off, it won't match well. I suspect that differing gloss levels play a role.
Yep - microscopic surface texture variations play a large role in apparent colour. You can see this by applying the same paint to complete coverage on a very smooth surface and a slightly textured one, both the tops and bottoms of the lit bumps contribute to a lower chroma in the second case.

Einion

Patrick1
04-19-2005, 04:52 PM
Yep - microscopic surface texture variations play a large role in apparent colour. You can see this by applying the same paint to complete coverage on a very smooth surface and a slightly textured one, both the tops and bottoms of the lit bumps contribute to a lower chroma in the second case.
Einion
I never thought of it that way...I was thinking it has more to do with light scattering. But what you say sounds right. It reminds me of several years back where Larry said that for those times when he needs the highest chroma highlights, he'll use a painting knife rather than a brush because the brush leaves ridges which make tiny highlights & shadows.

cunparis
05-02-2005, 12:50 AM
I've always thought that one of the main reasons many folks prefer to paint a scene en plein air is because photos often don't capture the colors or nuances accurately...some hues might be shifted, chroma lacking, dark shadows can end up looking near-black...losing the subtle hints of color they had in real life, loss of contrast, etc.


I thought the same thing, until I ventured outside this spring and did a few plein air paintings (3 so far). Since then I've done a couple paintings in the studio because I couldn't paint outside, so I can now compare the two. For me, painting in plein air is about the experience. I compare it to going on vacation and taking photos. You come back and look at the photos and they're pretty and all but it's not the same as being there. When I paint plein air, I'm there. When I get back all I have is this painting. I didn't expect it to be like that. The experience became more important than the painting itself. Maybe it's because I'm new, nervous, full of anxiety and endorphins, etc. Maybe it'll go away (I hope not). I really suggest you try it. Not just in your backyard, but really out there. Check out the plein air forum here and you'll be inspired. Since painting in plein air, I find it has helped my studio paintings as well.

-michael

LarrySeiler
05-02-2005, 12:41 PM
I painted from photos for near 25 years...and speaking for myself, painting from them now as a reference would be like sending someone whom I might greatly trust to go look for me, and then come back and tell me what he saw.

I might have a sketch down...and he might say..."okay...mix this and this to a value of this and paint it there. Hhhmmm...no a bit lighter, yet purer. Okay. Now mix this and this...use a bit of this as complement, mute it a bit....okay, now dab some of that over there."

the point is...a photo is an opinion formed by a second party. No different than if I sent someone else out to go look for me. We see the ridiculousness right off of sending someone to go do the looking for us, but in essence that is what we are asking the camera to do.

Now...if you develop great understanding from direct observation you perhaps can interpret. Unfortunately, I wish more artists Jan, saw the photo as a reference only and did not copy...but I can look at most paintings where a photo was relied upon and tell. Color is not natural, nor are the shadows and too many artists paint it just the way the photo tells it. No different than if someone came in and told me.

I want to personally experience it, then tell it in paint from my witness.

I've taken many reference photos at the start and the finishing point of my plein air time afield...in case I want small details or reminders. I often post those references along with my paintings in the plein air forums, and its pretty obvious that the reference photo is rarely ever looking anything like my plein air work itself.

Were I to give the reference photo to another to paint it instudio, I'll bet their finished painting would look more like that photo than my plein air done from life. Now...the test of a really good instudio painter would be to take a photo reference and paint it to look as if they had enough experience of direct observation to give that impression the work was produced from life. With that...I'll say most definitely that there are good artists capable of doing just that.

The problem is when the photo overrides good judgment. Many do settle into that confidence that because they like the photo...copying it just the same as they see it makes them a good artist. After all...others won't likely see the photo they copied. In the end...such might make them a good copier.

Plein airists do find themselves thinking about interior light that will affect their painting...but many do a number of things too, and can't be all lumped into one category. Some use an umbrella to diffuse light and keep direct sunlight off their canvas and palette. Some face the light painting their painting in the vertical/upright lid so that light is not direct.

Some by experience paint darker and purer anticipating what will happen later seeing the work indoors. Perhaps having worked 25 years in studio before going outdoors I have an intuitive sense about what will look good indoors, (hard to say) and by admission I give very little consideration while painting outdoors about how it will look indoors.

We have a whole other type of painter too in Clyde Aspevig...who having painted hundreds and hundreds of landscape studies outdoors by plein air, and from those painting larger instudio works...he now paints many large works instudio from imagination, instinct, understanding. A whole other league from myself.

Larry

LarrySeiler
05-02-2005, 04:13 PM
I'm having a real hard time though expressing something here though. What is missed from a photo is an encounter that brings a witness to the work done.

One can read about a kiss in a letter, or embrace their love and kiss. One can read a discription about getting punched by a middleweight champion, or one can actually experience it.

I could tell you what getting kicked in martial arts is like in the solar plexus and what it feels like when others are pounding on your back trying to get you to breath, help restore the wind knocked out of you. I could describe the cramps, the pain, the initial shock that grows to greater pain later...but its not the same as receiving the blow yourself.

There is life experienced that is attached to color and what is seen painting it from life...like "X-factors"

X-factors are referred to often by those in nutrition and health as those unknown amino acids, proteins, minerals and substances that various scientific methods have not been able to make known in food, yet are presumed to be there. Thus, it is said that it would be unhealthy and uwise to refuse eating actual foods, living off of supplements alone. All the "X-factors" which are unknown which the body may require would be forsaken to one's demise.

I'm suggesting that in the experience of painting directly from life, there is a connection...a paying attention, and absorbing of unknowns (X-factors if you will) that cannot be experienced and taken in thru the supplementation of a photograph. Unknowns that are nature's revelation which find their way to the canvas and bring something to the painting not found in a studio.

Saying such is not a rejection of studio work as others do it...but self-imposed restraints that hold me in its grasp. I reject the studio way right now for myself concerned for what "X-factors" I have the good fortune to experience and transfer to my canvas.

The "X-factors" experienced also help me determine what unnecessary elements I can afford to ignore or forsake to capture the few essentials that more aptly represent the cause of my compulsion to paint. Such determinations made spontaneously from the engaging of real experience accounts for final decisions on color, masses, composition and so forth.

I approach a scene without prejudice or preconception pretending to understand the mystery of why I am compelled to it. Painting is a process to discover nature's hold over me. What I found from painting from photos is that I had less humility to consider that nature might show me something. Instead, I was the expert set to wow others with what I could do.

With the photo, one sees what is there on this flat print paper, captured...frozen. Outdoors where light flickers, clouds pass by, where there are sounds and smells...one becomes aware that all these things contribute to the choices that will ultimately lead to a finished painting, that all these things influence your impressions of the moment. Nothing is frozen. Nothing is static. Everything that happens influences a color you will choose and why.

Until one has spent significant time outdoors setting up, and attempting to paint one can easily continue to presume they are enjoying the whole food nutrition of instudio work and all that photos allegedly provide. All I can testify to is that which was my own experience, and that is I was full of myself and full of confidence. Again, my awards were justification...but that was all tested and quite humliating when I took it outdoors.

One becomes aware of many X-factors one never had to face or consider instudio.

Jim Lamb In Southwest Art magazine, and in American Artist magazine was a very fine represented artist known for his illustration work with NASA, and with Wild Wings for his frolicking puppies. In the interview of both magazines (and I met and talked with Jim myself at a Wild Wings event we were both invited artists to)...Jim shares the sense of humiliation he felt being who he was for the level of work he produced, suddenly feeling as though he knew absolutely nothing about painting.

Saying all this...there are many styles of paintings, many patrons enjoying all forms of aesthetics. There is a legitimate place for work. I say this because I don't despise instudio work. Truth is...who can say anything negative about Rembrandt's work, Velasquez and so forth? At one time...I revered such work. It greatly influenced my own work. Now...I see their work and it does not strike me as filled with life that it once did. I used to go straight away to Rembrandt's work when visiting the Chicago Art Institute...now, I head elsewhere. My opinion and feeling does not negate the worth or mastery of his work. It more points to just another point and time in my own work and direction.

Unfortunately, it is difficult speaking so strongly one's feelings about why one is going the direction they are going, why they have forsaken another way without it coming off to sound as though you are condemning it all. There are reasons such (like a photo indoors) no longer works for me, that does not mean I cannot enjoy the work others do or encourage. With that please forgive and do not take offense.

Larry

vhere
05-02-2005, 05:38 PM
Larry that is really well put and I totally agree with you.

My daughter has just emailed me some very good photographs of a beach where I have often painted. They are good and the colour is good but I couldn't paint from them and do something that I would be happy with - they miss that changing light, the subtle colour changes that the eye sees and the camera doesn't, the ability to play with perspective and scale for the sake of the painting and the feel of the wind and sun and the smell of the sea ... even the grains of sand that get into the paint!