Posts Tagged ‘photography’

IMG_20171231_122358183.jpgSeems like a good way to go. Spending the last day of 2017 and first day of 2018 working on a painting. You might think that making a living as an artist means you are creating your heart out all of the time but for me at least the majority of the time I am running my art business. So free time to create is wonderful and rare.

It’s ridiculously cold here with the highs in the negatives and the lows scary level negatives. So high today -9. As a result I am hunkered down at the farm. I’m doing plenty of online web store work but brought home a little something to play with too. Sadly I forgot my milk house heater (small personal heater) which helps the suede dry quickly. My base coat of ink I use water the rest is done dry.

Here’s my scribble drawing. It’s going to be an alpaca. The third in a series. Sorry for the sucky photo. Light in my house not the best and no photo shop on my Chromebook to improve it.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to be back to blogging again. I’ve missed it and all of you greatly. Must mean my life is gaining some normalcy but there’s some big changes in my future. Moving off my acreage in a few months for starters. As well as after 6 years separated, divorced and on my own I’m dating so that’s exciting and terrifying. But I fully intend to take you all along for the ride on all the newness.

Makes my heart Happy to play with art again. Still got a commission piece to complete but it’s gotta be done at the gallery where the lighting is good. A horse needs to be the same color as it is in real life if at all possible. 🙂


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After having been to the MN Horse Expo recently I now have a small mountain of photo requiring organization. It got me to thinking about a couple of lenses that I created regarding collecting and organizing your reference photos. The previous post dealt with why you should take your own reference photos. And this post highlights a few of the ways that i go about collecting reference photos.

1. Take LOTS of Pictures
Yeah okay that seems pretty self explanatory but seriously most of the time I have no idea what will be og use to me possibly years in the future. I try not to over think my photos and keep them spontaneous. Again I’m not a photographer I’m a painter. I don’t need to set up the shot in order to get a painting out of it. sometimes a painting doesn’t emerge form a photo collection until years later. My tastes change and my medium and styles change and when if I edit too many photos out as not usable, I may be throwing away a great future painting.

2. When Collecting Reference Images Take Photos From Every Angle (and i do mean every angle) Keep taking photos until you can’t think up with a new way to view this object.

3.Try New Angles
Whenever I photograph a subject I try to go all the way around them. Also, often I get down on my knees to try new angles. Yup, even in public places. I usually don’t mind humiliation when on a quest for new images to paint.

4. But Be Sure To Avoid Photographic Distortion (you know bulgy eyes, tiny little body) The best way to avoid distortion is to not be too close to your object of interest.

5.Take Detail shots The other thing I do when collecting painting reference photos is I take loads of detail shots. Close up or macro images of eyes, ears noses anything that I deem significant at the time. While these will probably never be the whole completed painting they provide information that might be lost of the wider shots.

6. Be aware Of Your Lighting. When taking photos outdoors I have found that the best light occurs in the mornings and evenings.

Both mornings and evenings the light is warmer in color and often with a yellow cast. Also the side lighting allows for greater drama with lights and shadows.

For more information on collecting your own reference photographs and how to organzie them please visit these lenses.

How To Build Your Own Reference Library
Organizing Your Photo Reference Library

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I had recently run up to the MN Horse Expo and as is my way took a few hundred photos for painting reference. This got me to thinking a bit about why it is so important to collect my own reference photos in light of the fact that there are plenty of sights allowing you to use their images (though usually for a price.)

So in case your asking yourself why should you go to all this trouble, well here’s 4 good reasons why.
I. Connects you with your work
2. Avoids Legal Troubles
3. Professionalism
4.There’s nothing that beats that “being there” experience

Collecting your own reference photos will definitely aid in your ability to connect with your art. And if you connect with it chances are, collectors will also.

But if you’re still not convinced collecting your own images is worth the hassle, well then you need to familiarize yourself with the terms for using the work of others for your reference materials.It is good to be able to understand the difference between royalty free and copyright free. According to Wikipedia

Royalty Free is:
Royalty-free is a term employed in negotiating the right to use creative content, such as photographs, video, or music. The term royalty-free means that once the content is licensed under a set of guidelines, the licensee is normally free to use it in perpetuity without paying additional royalty charges.

While Copyright is
Copyright is the set of exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work. These rights can be licensed, transferred and/or assigned.

So Copyright Free is:
Copyright-free is a conventional expression extensively used in Japan by authors whose works can be used freely regardless of copyright. It is distinguished from public domain.

And Finally Public Domain
Works are in the public domain if they are not covered by intellectual property rights at all, if the intellectual property rights have expired,[1] and/or if the intellectual property rights are forfeited or unclaimed.

The defining characteristic of copyright infringement is if the average viewer when looking at the two works see a similarity. The copying need not be exact.

Seriously, isn’t it just easier to go out and get your own?

For more information on collecting your own reference photographs and how to organize them please visit these lenses.

How To Build Your Own Reference Library
Organizing Your Photo Reference Library

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Photographic Reference

A Story In Three Parts.

Part 1
So I had a few free moments last week and went to check out Katherine Tyrrells blog Making A Mark. She is one of the few blogs that I keep tabs on for business purposes. One of her recent posts regarding the latest winner of the Gold Medal Award for the American Watercolor Society. Or rather the furor surrounding the winning painting which was a hyper realistic painting derived from two royalty free online photos.

It is a stunning painting, and it is easy to see how it won. But once you have the knowledge that the painting was created using two photos from someone else. And though it is painted exquisitely, from what I understand all she really did was put them together relatively unchanged. The question then becomes should it have won?

I had one of those “Damn, I wish I had done that!” moments.

Part 2
When I first started working on my lambs painting I was uncertain what color palette I should work in. My reference photo was a cold blue gray and had no life. Finding contrast in black faced sheep is easy, but for two all white lambs . . . urm, not so much. So I went online to see how some other artists handled a similar situation. Turns out I got no help. It is apparently a rare thing to paint a close up of all white sheep.

But I did run across a sheep portrait done by a daily painter. It was stunning. The color and brush strokes, the cropping and sheep’s expression were all really well done. I had one of those “Damn, I wish I had done that!” moments.

Later on in my rummaging I came across the stock photo she had used for her painting. Her painting was exactly like the photo image. Yes, it was her color sense and brushwork but everything else, the composition and cropping were the same. She didn’t so much a flick an ear in a different direction. I suddenly lost a whole lot of respect for the artist.

Now I am not saying that she did anything wrong. She may well have gotten all the copyrights and stuff. What lost me was all she really did was copy something someone else had done. Yes, she infused her painting style but that was the extent of it. Even if it had been a photo of a full sheep and she then cropped creatively it would have then spoken more of who she is as an artist.

Part 3
One last story to drive the point home. Recently I signed a contract that said I was the legal copyright holder of all my artwork being submitted. And that any lawsuits raised in regards to copyright infringement were my responsibility. I signed it without a single qualm because every painting from long before I turned art into my profession, (with the exception of two) are derived from my own reference photographs.

I have spent decades building my photo library and fortunes on film and developing. But I rest easy knowing that if someone tries makes a claim against me, I have my own reference material to back me up. It does mean I am limited to what I paint, because I have to collect it. But I also get a sense of pride knowing that I participated in the process all the way through.

The moral of the story:
If you have not already done so, start to build your own reference library by taking your own photos. Old National Geographics or any other mag, (no matter how obscure) don’t count, except as illegal.

Also, if you feel you must use someone else’s photos, know the difference between royalty free and copyright free.

Note: Of the two paintings I created using someone elses photos. One was a fellow artist and friend who kept saying I should paint from a couple of shots she took. So I did.

And the other was a portrait of a horse that had passed away. I had used a professionally taken photograph for my primary reference. But before I agreed to use it, I got a letter from the photographer (which I still have on file) stating that it was okay to use his photo and any derivative works were mine to copyright.

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We had visited our neighbor last night, and on our way out she offered to let me take some peonies home. They had been storm battered and wouldn’t last much longer anyway, so I plucked one. (Yes only one, I had to remind myself it was not proper etiquette to scamper willy-nilly about the yard, gathering them up by the dozens.) This morning I awoke to find it had opened up into this lovely flower, and I couldn’t resist taking a few photos. The darker ones are from my garden. (In this instance the word garden is used in the loosest possible way.)

Now the number of flower paintings that I have created in my lifetime, can probably (meaning that’s all I can remember) be counted on one hand. (Yup, that many.) But for some reason I can’t quite stop myself from taking lots and lots of pictures. Hmmm. The inner workings of a critter artist’s mind. Maybe it has something to do with my complete adoration of Georgia O’keefe.

Back to the Lighting.
Anywho, good lighting can make the difference between an ordinary photograph (and thus generally an ordinary painting) and a stunning piece. Good lighting can bring much needed contrast between shadow and highlight. Most of the time when I am photographing critters, I have to take what lighting there is. But for this I get to play around a bit.

The first photo (above) is just using the overhead light as well as the natural light from the window. It offers an okay amount of contrast. It would probably give me enough information to make a passably good painting. (If I were so inclined, and if I used loads of artistic juju to bump up the contrast while in the process of painting.)

The second photo is the flower lit using a natural spectrum light bulb from my drafting table, as well as overhead and natural sunlight from the window. I placed the lamp at a 45 degree angle from the windows. It not only added contrast, but also a myriad of soft and subtle hues of pink, yellow and blue. Lovely! (Plus, it will require much less of the juju to make a great painting.)

Had I been really feeling the flower power, I would have spritzed it gently with a water bottle, to mimic dew. It’s almost enough to make a critter artist think about painting peonies. Or maybe I am just drunk on the sweet smell of flowers that is currently permeating the gallery.

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