View Full Version : Reference! We don't copy the Stinking Reference!

12-08-2008, 05:13 PM



Title: Reference! We don't copy the Stinking Reference!
Year Created:
Medium: Acrylic
Surface: Canvas
Dimension: 12x16
Allow digital alterations?: Yes!

There are 3 images in this thread. I want to not only get some critical comments but to also share a teaching point which I hope is well illustrated. The first image is a photo of an Egyptian village I took. Then, about 18 months ago, I made a painting in acrylic, 18x24, laboring to paint every little window. I did ignore the donkeys. Look close at the reference. It is donkey laden.<br><br>More recently I finished a smaller acrylic on canvas where I tried to set up a center of interest and subdue the rest. And, gasp, this departed from the reference. Artistic license, you know.

Do you like the third one best? Jeez, I hope so. Please focus critiques on it.

Bright Eyes
12-08-2008, 07:09 PM
I have to say I like both for different reasons. I like the detail in the first (painting), but it doesn't have much of a center of interest. I like the yellow building on the second painting because this painting has a focal point. I think adding just a bit more detail around the focal area of the second painting would really be the cherry on top! Maybe even throw in a donkey :D I have a real soft spot for the critters'. And adding some of that great yellow you have going on to the first painting to better define a focal area would make two amazing paintings!

12-08-2008, 07:56 PM
nope, sorry, i like #2 best but not for any other reason that that lively bright contrasting light blue against the warm warm oranges ... the 3rd one has cold icky yellow with blah periwinkle blue ... imho : )


12-08-2008, 08:48 PM
I have been spouting the philosophy of taking what you need from a reference, and then tossing it, ever since I have been on the WetCanvas! This is an excellent reason why TG. It is first of all a wonderful photo. It contains at least 6 separate painting references! It would not make the least bit of sense to try and cram 6 paintings into one laboriously copied reference!

The ist painting is trying not to work along those lines, the heavy load of trivia has been removed...but then a great deal of the 'magic' of the original image is in the trivia...so their is no vibrant life, no 'magic' in the painting. It is still about the buildings, and as such could be any dusty little adobe town in the Southwest American dry lands. The second painting you have utilized the buildings, and then stepped away from them. You have discarded your reference and painted the heat and emotion of the place. You were not tethered to 'this window being here and that door being there' sort of thinking. By doing this you open yourself up to the preferences of others. I too prefer a yellow that is less acrid...but then that would be my painting... I would in fact be inclined to handle the reference in a way even further removed from a copy...


In my way of thinking , your argument is quite sound! I like the second!

12-08-2008, 09:06 PM
Having been there too, my preference is for the second but I'm distracted by that light blue lower right, it takes my eye immediately there.
I would love to see a donkey or two too, they are part of Egypt.

12-08-2008, 09:47 PM
The second painting is better composed - you got your focal point, but it doesn't tell us a story so the first painting becomes more attractive because of the color movement.

I prefer the second because it has more potential, but I'd look at it as a stage of the project and go back and look for ideas on how to involve the viewer in your story more.
What time of day is it and what are the people doing at that time of day?
What kind of house is that yellow one, compared to all the others?

Maybe a road leading thru the other houses to the focal point could start us thinking.

12-08-2008, 10:31 PM
I too like the second one better, it has life to it, the third looks muddy, almost as though a mud slide has encumbered the entire village!! Also, in the third I dont really find a center of interest..I find my self looking over and over for one but not being able to completely focus my eyes on anything inparticular.
The second one has a wonderful "folk art" feel, for me anyway, with warm vibrant color, abundant life, with just enough attention to the details. The third, again, for me, doesnt convey that, it say "I lost my reference photo".
Brutally honest I know, but the second one is the winner here.

12-08-2008, 11:16 PM
Love Corby's photoshop.
So much for "everyone would prefer the 3rd image".
But...there are semantic difficulties between, for example, the 2nd painting and the 2nd image. Let's try to remember, people, that the first image is a photograph. It's as easy as 1-2-3.
Things would have gone better if I'd only painted the Donkeys. Hee Haw.

12-08-2008, 11:24 PM
Second one is perfect for the donkey against the yellow bldg on the right-as a focal pt, he will greet and walked all the viewers thru your lovely painting aka village. - make him coming down the slope near the yellow bld. and into the village- maybe a tiny road in the distant top.

Very nice. It reminds me of greece

12-08-2008, 11:30 PM
Not to make an ass of myself ( ;-) ) but the first effort (#2 image) of 18 months ago is so good I remembered it right away. Maybe I just prefer the palette... I think it is more harmonious. But the more recent version has areas like rooftops that are better resolved.
Your point is true. A photo ref is just that - a reference. Dont be a slave to it - its a jumping off point and from there you have to bring your own intrepretation and style.

12-09-2008, 02:17 AM
Are you keeping count? I like the third image which is the second painting the best. I know that's a shock as I like high saturation. But this is not Santa Fe and the more recent painting conveys better the quiet humbleness of the place, with the majesty of the light, and IMHO it should ALWAYS be about the light. I really like Corby’s workup as well, and agree with most of what Bill said too. Doing a few studies allows the concept to really take root. Another bonus for doing the studies is that you can sell them as well as the final painting (if they turn out as well as these two paintings did).

12-09-2008, 04:30 PM
Shouldn't the title be "We don't copy no Steenking Reference!"?

12-09-2008, 07:53 PM
Ole, Lawrence!

12-18-2008, 09:42 AM
TG you are a Great Master. Actually I liked your rendition#1 with all those buzzing details....How Amazing to paint in all that!
BUT I agree that we must trash the ref...have suffered the Tyranny of Detail all the time when I paint from my ref photos...and get so miserable