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Old 06-30-2007, 07:54 PM
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July '07 Class: Painting From Photos...Creatively!

Digital cameras and the Internet give us extrodinary access to source photos. Yet how many times have you gone looking for the "right" photo for a painting? Or wondered how the artist
went from this --------------------------------->to this?


Rarely do photographs give precisely what you are looking for. The July Classroom will focus on painting from photos creatively. Specifically we will explore assessing, combining or changing source shots to get the artistic focus you want.


Kev's Haymaking done for the Landmark Challenge

Ready to play, ehem, I mean, work?

Topic Areas & Approach

I am not an expert at either painting or photography. But by putting our heads together, I think we will find that we know a lot about painting from photos.
Experienced painter? Share what you know! Find a new edge.
Novice? Work on a new skill! Gain confidence about your instincts.

Here is my mental map of the key concepts and skills we will explore:



Here is a more verbal sketch:.

Source Photos
Composition of the photo vis a vis painting composition
As watercolorists, what do we need to be aware of when taking or selecting source photos? When are great photos not great for painting?
- Shooting and using mulitple references
- Changing photos to fit artistic needs
- Building a reference file or scrapbook
- What does the lens see that the eye does not? And vice versa?

Design and Planning
Generic skills, but focused on bridging from photo to painting
How is the planning different than plein aire or real time? What do we notice about our paintings, when the image is traced vs free-hand drawn?
- Composition – tapping existing resources and coaching for beginners, recap and insights from experienced painters
- Field sketching techniques
- Photo editing programs as a design tool
- Handling distortions, especially in buildings and urban scenes
- Challenges of combining sources – perspective, light
- Favorite methods for transfering photo image to watercolor paper

The Dance between Painting and Photo
How do we judge a painting…by the match to the photo or perhaps by the creative difference? What can we learn from the Masters, contemporary artists, and those at WC where we can access both a photo and a painting?
- Defining YOUR balance of detail and simplification, accuracy and personal expression
- Letting go of the photo
- Handling natural light, skies, vibrant color
- Working from sketches and notes

My role is to set up the cyber workroom…offer exercises ….goad you into reflecting on what you are discovering…facilitate feedback… summarize key points.

Your role is to post whatever paintings, photos, examples ideas or resources you have. I ask permission in advance to bug you from time to time with questions like “What does this (painting, idea, technique) do to move your skills or understanding forward?”

In the end, I will take what is said and shared, and turn it into an WC article or section of the Handbook.


Basic Approach

I will post exercises and questions for each of the areas of the map in this thread. The Homework Thread will be for posting paintings, examples, resources, and an ongoing conversation about techniques, peer feedback, and things we’ve learned or rediscovered.

Overall the workshop will be an ongoing cycle of:
- Doing a exercise – working with photos or sketching/painting - focused on a core skill or concept.
- Feedback to each other on the exercise.
- Address painting technique questions as needed.
- Brainstorm / talk about insights, learnings, other examples relevant to this skill or concept.
- Summarize what we think are the most essential points and skills

You can expect to:
• Refresh / build skills in
- taking, selecting and modifying source pictures (digital or film)
- composition
- interpreting what you see, transforming it into what you paint

• Paint from photos you take or find online, including assessing and changing them as needed

• Contribute what you know: info, experience, paintings/photos, resources

• Get and give feedback on whatever you post

• Connect learning / painting here to other threads and projects, such as the Monthly Photo in the Learning Zone or the Landmark Challenge

• Talk about questions that arise….e.g. about creativity, the nature of making art, and capturing the world around us via our art

• Have fun!

What You Need
- Your normal painting kit. Watercolor pencils/crayon and mixed media welcome.
- Your own photos or those from RIL or other copyright free sources.
- Willingness to share your expertise and experience
- Your imagination and open mind

I strongly suggest
- taking a look at the Handbook articles:
composition http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=318417
using computers for painting http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=105349
- Painting Great Pictures from Photographs by Hazel Harrison (thanks to Sylvia aka Painterbear for the recommendation ).
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Sterling/Silver; Pbk edition (December 31, 2001)
ISBN-10: 0806967579
About $15 USD.

I look forward exploring photos and paintings with you!

Jen
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Last edited by rue d'oak : 06-30-2007 at 08:50 PM.
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Old 06-30-2007, 08:30 PM
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Re: July '07 Class: Painting From Photos...Creatively!

Pre-Homework “Garden Tour”

A quick look at what we are working toward...

While we gather a few people together, go out and find a painting and the source photo used for it. It might be one of your own, a link to something posted here at WC or an example you find in a book. Doesn’t need to be watercolor. Let’s just build a little collection of photo/painting pairs. We’ll talk about these pairings as we go on.

Please help in building a legal and accurate set of examples, appropriate to an article citation list or bibliography:
If you want to use a painting from someone here at WC, you must contact them and ask permission. Please include their name in your posting

If you use something from the Internet, please include the link and artist as source reference.

Please do not post replies here.

Post all Comments in the ..............
Homework Thread


And keep checking back here for additional information and homework.
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Last edited by Roun2it : 07-01-2007 at 10:06 AM.
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Old 07-01-2007, 12:59 PM
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Re: July '07 Class: Painting From Photos...Creatively!

Ideas to Ponder

There are two challenges to our attitudes about painting from photographs, which I'd like to acknowledge:
• Using photos is cheating. Or as a bumper sticker might say: Real artists do it in plein air.

• It's in the photo, therefore it must be painted. Also fondly known as "being a slave to the photo."

Real Artists Do It With Photos
That everyone should be so lucky as to do all their art live or on site. There is an magic about working plein air, for example, or with a live model. Maybe it harkens back to a time when artists had no choice. Maybe it remains as the ultimate challenge, painting against time and elements. But many great artists have turned to photo references:

“Since the introduction of photography in 1837, photography and painting have had an alternatively hot and cold relationship. Even before 1837, a series of lens based drawing aids—camera lucida, camera oscura—introduced what we now would call lenticular vision to painters…Around the turn of the 20th century Édouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard and Gustave Caillebotte all painted from photographic sketches, a fact left out of art history books until recently.”

Source: Natasha Egan, Associate Director Museum of Contemporary Photography as part of an intro to the 2003 exhibit, PAINTING ON PHOTOGRAPHY: PHOTOGRAPHY ON PAINTING
http://www.mocp.org/exhibitions/2005...ing_on_pho.php

Photos are merely the resource or inspiration. The art is about what we do with the photo. Artists have ever been on the edge of new ideas and technology. Da Vinci apparently followed odd looking people around the village, memorizing their features for later drawing. Can you imagine such an innovator NOT welcoming a Nikon Coolpix T500 to take shots of those now immortalized villagers! Let's put any lingering doubts to rest about the creative validity of painting from photographs.

Photo Slave Anonymous
Photos are such seductive bait. I don't want to count how many photos I have stashed away intending to paint. But even worse are the number of times I have found myself slavishly reproducing details....or apologizing that the painting doesn't look like the photo...or belated realizing that I needed to alter something but was blind to it, because I accepted the camera lens's version. Sound familiar? So I just wanted to invite you to join this workshop's consciousness raising group (Char and I are founding members...). Here's to photos being vehicles, but not life rafts, for our creativity!
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Old 07-01-2007, 04:14 PM
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Re: July '07 Class: Painting From Photos...Creatively!

Suggested Resources for Computer / Software Use to Alter Photos


In this July class we will skate a fine line between "painting from photos" and technical help on how to change photos using your computer / photo editor ie PhotoShop, Photo Elements, Corel Photo, etc.

For those wanting to know more about the computer side of things, here are some resources. Hopefully we can add and refine this list as we go.

Using Computers for Painting
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=105349 Referenced earlier, this is in the Handbook. Doug has also mentioned it in the Homework thread. Here are a couple of posts within that thread that seem applicable (so you do not need to read all pages).

#27 - laniers - taking mutiple shots at different exposures, layering then erasing/ combing to get a more true representation of the values we see in real life.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...6&postcount=27

#29 - yorky - good example of adding a hill, changing the sky from white to blue. http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...4&postcount=29

#33 LarrySeiler - example of enhancing color to better replicate what is seen in onsite. http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...8&postcount=33

#60 - Yorky - example of combining photos, including the final painting.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...5&postcount=60

#92 - Dennis - a couple of ideas about ways to manipulate objects.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...8&postcount=92

#98 and # 101 - Yorky - using filters to change the background. Good examples of different effects one could paint. Post #101 gives tips on how to select the background.
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...9&postcount=98
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...&postcount=101

#105 - Yorky - Photoshop Elements tips on changing a site photo taken on a dull day, changing to blue sky and better overall color.http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...&postcount=105

#111 -Yorky - and #115 - jageo - tips on selecting objects within the photo
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...&postcount=111
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...&postcount=115

#145 - SusanKay - multiple uses for computer in painting, including tracing right on the monitor!http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...&postcount=145

#155 - Yorky - outlining
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...&postcount=155

#158 - Yorky - using the equalize filter to find/smooth edges http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...&postcount=158

Posterizing
Posterise Using GIMP - FREE Manipulation Software - a thread by Kev (Roun2it)
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show....php?p=5286976

#153 - Yorky - posterizing
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...&postcount=153

Photo Program Tutorials
Digital Photography Tutorials
http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials.htm

Photoshop Elements Tips
http://www.arraich.com/elements/psE_intro.htm

'

Please do not post replies here.

Post all Comments in the ..............
Homework Thread
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Last edited by Roun2it : 07-01-2007 at 04:41 PM.
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Old 07-03-2007, 02:39 AM
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Re: July '07 Class: Painting From Photos...Creatively!

Homework #1 “Breaking Ground”

Roots of Composition, Part 1

Let’s get our hands in the dirt, and jump right into assessing what we think are great photos. Please note I am saying great photos. Not necessarily great source photos.

1. Find and post 1-3 photos that really catch your eye or speak to you. It might be one you plan to paint, already have painted, or dream of painting (but know in reality you may never). And it might be a photo that isn’t something you’d paint, but that just grabs you.

2. Tell us why each photo appeals to you. What is it that hollars, “Me, me me?” Or if you want, draw circles and arrows on it and show us what you mean.

3. As the photos get posted, notice themes….design principles….elements of good composition. Post what you are noticing in a reply.
4. Remember! This is not a Photo Popularity Contest. Suspend judgement on each other’s choices. Let’s assume all are great photos. Talk about the QUALITIES that make it so attractive.


Here is the link to the RIL.

Or share a photo of your own. Go out and take some pictures. Remember to credit the source of the photo, and also whether it is “snagable,” meaning someone could save it to use later.

Our purpose is to start reviewing the qualities of good composition and design, and how that differs – or is the same – for paintings and photos.
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Last edited by Yorky : 07-03-2007 at 03:09 PM.
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Old 07-04-2007, 04:05 AM
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Re: July '07 Class: Painting From Photos...Creatively!

Ready to paint?? I'm sure some of you are saying, "About time!" Thanks for hanging in there with getting some examples out in the Homework thread.

Homework #2 Tilling the Soil

...around the roots of the Source Photo Tree!

This is a quick exercise that I hope will loosen the knots on the photo slave bonds, and let you play with color and composition.

You need a straightforward landscape photo. Use one already posted, peruse the RIL, or use this one here:



This was posted in the RIL by brianc, and can be found here: http://www.wetcanvas.com/RefLib/show...hp?photo=51427 And of course if you have another subject you want to use instead, go for it! Take this to whatever level is worthwhile for you.

Hazel Harrison in Painting Great Pictures from Photographs comments that many landscape source photos are a little short on sky. One way to create more drama and focus is to crop out some of the foreground and/or increase the amount of sky....and then let loose with the color.

1. Crop or add to increase the sky to at least 1/2 of the paper.
2. Do at two versions, each with a different sky. Play with sky/cloud shape, color, and direction. Force yourself to let go of the photo source sky.
3. Let the sky drive your other choices for the rest of the landscape.

Let go of these being great paintings. Just go for it. Have serious fun.

Here is my practice exercise: I've kept it simple. And small. These are about 5 1/2" x 9".

The crop



Practice 1 following the source photo blue sky



Practice 2 changing the sky color and cloud direction


How does changing the sky change your composition? What else did you find you changed (or see that you could have changed?
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Old 07-10-2007, 02:19 PM
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Re: July '07 Class: Painting From Photos...Creatively!

Additional Self-Directed Learning: Skies

Some of the comments on skies in the Homework thread has led me to research what is available, especially for those of you still learning your way around WC. A selected list, not exhaustive.

Handbook>Monthly Classes>June 2005 Skies>Theory
Nearly a dozen different approaches with step by step instruction/demo. Couple of favorites that seem to address the range of technique/palette:

In depth #1 by Rod Webb and #2 Light skies and #3 Stormy skies

#15 Spritz bottle Cerulean/Indigo/Gold Ochre

#27 Massed dark clouds - varied palette

#37 - purple/yellow varied palette, beach reflection


Handbook>Landscapes - scroll to Elements in Landscapes: Skys & Clouds
A great practice idea, imbedded in the Handbook
Sky Practice by Yorky
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Old 07-15-2007, 04:34 AM
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Re: July '07 Class: Painting From Photos...Creatively!

Homework # 3 Dealing with Pests


One of the pests in the source tree garden is perspective, especially when distorted by the camera. Maybe perspective is more like a bee than a pest in the garden - it's needed to pollinate to produce fruit, but boy can it sting.

A quickly recognized pest is converging verticals:




(these samples come from both Mike and Jen)

Big vista landscapes are another photo / painting pest. The limits most automatic camera have in getting the depth of field usually mean these wonderful scenes loose their punch in the photo:



There are two parts to the homework, A = Urban Scapes (in this post #8) and B = Big Vistas. (upcoming post #11)

Look to the following post #9 for some related "theory" ideas to stretch your thinking....and some tried and true tips on drawing in 3D.

Objective of the Homework:
• Correcting distortion of urban scapes
• Enhancing drama of big landscapes
• Practice with drawing/ painting classic perspective

Task A: Urban Scape


I recommend you use this photo of Mike's as a first practice. It is a straightforward example for both correcting photo distortion and drawing/painting classic perspective.

As always, if you have another photo you are dying to use or if this seems too basic for your learning, use your own source!



1. Use your photo editor or draw from scratch to get the tower and sides of the church back to vertical.

The steps to correct distortion is essentially the same as straightening photos taken of your paintings, that you post here. In many applications, there are automatic features for straightening.

iPhoto 6 has an easy-to-use too:
1. Double-click to enlarge a selected photo.
2. Click on the Adjust icon. Find the Straighten slider with a grid to help align the verticals.
3. Click Done to save.

Generic Photoshop - as outlined by Mike. I know Corel Photo, which follows a similar sequence, just by different names. PM me for directions,as since it is not as common, I won't take up space here for it.
1. Make the window full so there is blank area around the image.

1. Select View\Rulers and then drag a vertical ruler to use as a guide along the side of a building vertical line that is off. More than one is OK. Then

2. Select Select\All

3. Then select Edit\Transform\Skew

(your image will have little boxes in the corners and mid lines)

4. Drag boxes so as the straighten building's vertical to the ruler lines you dragged out. press Enter to accept your transform and bob's your uncle you have it.

• You may have to trim/crop to finish it off.
• Newer versions have a perspective tool that does this all for you.

Here is the original and then the adjusted photo prior to cropping:



2. What other changes you want to make?
• There is the shadow...Eliminate? Keep?
• Overhead power lines?
• What will be the focus, the COI? How will you direct the eye to this focus?
• What can you simplify.

I decided to posterize the photo, including the overhead lines. Use this as well, or create your own original to paint from. I often posterize a photo, just to see what happens to the shadows and the detail, even if I am not planning on painting it that way.



3. Here are a couple of shots of my progress:





And the finished painting:


I look forward to seeing what you come up with!
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Old 07-15-2007, 05:30 AM
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Re: July '07 Class: Painting From Photos...Creatively!

Perspective: Ideas & Tips


When it comes to seeing, there are two things we are hardwired to recognize:

Face/Body: Babies respond to the key elements that mean “face” at birth. Earliest drawings of humankind and childhood go from circle/spiral to radials to bodies.

Objects at a distance: We learned early to know whether it was a tribesman or enemy, dinner or predator headed our way.

The significance of this for painters is that just the slightest mark has meaning. In some ways it makes it easy. However there is a catch. Our minds get BIG meaning out of minute visual clues. For the record, current research indicates we have knowledge of what we see before our eyes “see,” because the brain already has “memories” that make sense of the light and darks the eye takes in. The importance here is the relationship between memory and what we see. From the tiniest bits of light and contrast we recognize things…. Even at a level of detail which is hard for our hands to construct with a brush. Hence, making the slighest but right brush mark is a challenge.

Our task as painters is to tap and trigger meaning and recognition, even when not working realistically. “Perspective” at its simplist is a set of conventions, tricks really, that do just that. Foreshortening, contour, fading value and hue, scale, overlapping, degree of detail. Basic 3D drawing doesn’t take much.

Which isn’t to say that architectural rendering is easy!

For our purposes of painting, and especially working from photos, attention to the basics lets the bees pollinate rather than sting.

Much instruction on perspective centers around drawing – line art. As watercolorists we work more in form and edge. Awareness of the horizon, as though we are drawing, is critical – everything is instinctively measured against it, even if only implied. Direction of light? An angle taken off the horizon. Foreground, midground, background? Units of space between where we are and the horizon. Foreshortening? Object height and edge angle in relation to the horizon.

Drawing 3D 101


Squeeze the lines!

• Square => box
• Circle => oval =>cylinder, cone
• “When parallels touch” = road, etc.
• “Invisible parallel lines” = guide size of diminishing verticals e.g. telephone posts

Adjust detail, color, value, edge/form



Foreground =
specific shape
greatest detail
brightest, warmest color sharpest edge

Background =
general form
faded, softest value
coolest color
softened edge

Give volume



• Darker value opposite light = shadow, shaded form
• Line/strokes parallel = angle of shadow
• Contour, shading within = round, solid form

Match light angle


The angle of the sun (as measured against the horizon) matches the angle of shadows. If drawing shadows with narrow lines, it is critical to keep the lines parallel; usually it is easier to understand if the little shadow lines mirror the angle of the light coming from the source.
• Shading touches edges = object on ground
• Shadow below = object floats

Distorted Perspective


Cameras present a challenge. The lens curves and distorts perpective. Photos of tall buildings typically end up with the verticals converging. In artistic photography this is a creative edge. This convergence is not wrong – some of it artistically expresses height and mass. Make it an artistic choice rather than an overlooked pest!

Quick fix? Apply 3D 101.

Tilted Verticals
• Apply the basics in a quick sketch, to reassert reality.
• Create your own virtual T-square in a photo/drawing application by drawing a rectangle to check and correct vertical distortion, using the horizon as a baseline.
• Adjust in a photo editor. Example in iPhoto > double click photo for editing > adjust menu > move button on the straighten scale




Depth of Field
Automatic camera settings often fail to give the depth and scope we see with our eyes. Wide angle lens take in so much that entire mountain ranges seem puny. Where possible get both wide angle and zoom shots, as well as field sketches, to remind you of the scale and drama of the scene.
• a cropped version of a landscape may actually convey more than the full version in the photo.


• Shift the proportion of sky and land to bring attention to one over the other


• Sharpen foreground and soften background details
• Brighten foreground, soften background colors and values
• Apply “vanishing to the horizon” feeling in skies as well on land…e.g. colorful, dark, detailed clouds up close

As I can, I will add examples, tips and links.
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