Tutorial (3) – Using a photograph as my jumping off point……Nothing is set in stone.

In my last post – WARMING UP WITH PETER PAUL RUBENS – I mentioned that I would post a tutorial this week using a photograph as my ‘jumping off point’. Purely copying can be informative but often produces – a wooden or dead image….

I remember as a young art student being taken to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London where we would ‘copy’ paintings’ – which I learned was an excellent way to explore signature brush strokes and an artist’s emotional state. It’s a way of learning to ‘read’ paintings.

I was given this image by my friend and fellow artist, Jenny. On its own it is indeed a lovely photograph of a hummingbird seeking nectar. The first think I have to ask myself is – ‘will it read well as a painting?’ Remember we are painters, not photographers and so I feel if I am to copy this or any other image I need to put my own stamp on it and remove elements that don’t work for me.

I began by making quick sketches – which helps me to ‘see’ more clearly. This is an important part of my ‘thinking’ process…..

I then turned the images upside down which allows me to see the rhythm and composition in a different way. I suggest doing this with all paintings….

Once I began to really see it, I realised the photograph was too busy for me. If I am to put my personal stamp on it, I prefer more of a looser more impressionistic outcome.

Using watercolour/gouache and a Tombow Pen I began to explore a different composition. I wanted to introduce warmer colours….and so out came the cadmium orange, Naples yellow and some opera rose gouache.

Note that there is a lot of PLAYING involved in my thought process…..

When thinking through a composition Gouache works very well because it allows us to paint over and make quick adjustments mirroring our thought process. With the pure transparent watercolour medium this sort of thinking can produce MUD...a watercolorist’s nightmare.

The bigger picture….

Given that nothing is set in stone..…I hope this demonstration inspires you to look at photographs you might want to use in a different way.

Remember there is not a right or wrong way. Once we understand that we are freed up to explore the creative process differently.

I will be posting tutorials every week until the time comes that we can all come together again.

Follow the rules and stay safe…and help the NHS

a bientΓ΄t – Janet πŸ™‚

30 thoughts on “Tutorial (3) – Using a photograph as my jumping off point……Nothing is set in stone.

  1. V.J. Knutson

    These tips are excellent Janet. I started working on a piece yesterday, but soon realized it was too busy. What I now know is that I just need a hint of the background – to focus more on the subject.

  2. Laura Kate

    This was a very helpful exercise. My takeaways: 1. Be editorial about the reference photographs selected. 2. Make multiple sketches using water colors and pen. 3. Look at your sketches from all angles. 4. Use gouache for quick edits of the composition.

  3. Jet Eliot

    Wow, what a gift this is, Janet, to see how you create and produce. Your accompanying descriptions were fascinating, and the emphasis on play and fluidity is espec. appreciated. I am not a watercolorist, but as a novelist I find there are similar important exercises, much like these. Witnessing the process you took from the photo to your watercolor was lovely.

  4. davidjrogersftw

    Thank you, Jamet for this helpful post. Well done. Let’s say that there are two main kinds of painters or writers: planners who need time to live with the work for a while and get their bearungs and consider options and non-planners who have some little basic idea of what they want the work to be, but very qi\\uickly just pick up a briush and hack away making shapes and colors that they then respond to as the work takes shape. Are you one more than the other?

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      I most definitely fall into both categories. I use spontaneous painting for watercolour work and when travelling and wanting to record things quickly. However, I do a lot of planning in my head and with the brush when it comes to more considered studio work. Both elements are exciting for me. πŸ™‚


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