Photographs as Reference for Landscape Painting

_DSC6990Hi, everybody who is interested in sharing some ideas and practicing how to use photographs as the reference for a painting. Of course many photographers would ask “why”? Why to paint what you can “catch” with your camera, instantly, exactly, with all the atmospheric details, colours, shadows etc, etc. Well, I have some friends who ask me about it…

In fact this is an interesting question and there might be a lot of also interesting answers to it. My answer was that I like the photographs as well as I like paintings but also I like a lot the difference between them. This difference is something that the camera “can’t see”, something that is behind the lens, the settings, filters, lightrooms, photoshop etc, etc.

The artistic photographs is in essence the independent piece of art and “to take” it, “to make” it, to work with the composition, details, lights and shadows is extremely interesting, is not an easy work which requires not only specific, professional skills but also “the feeling” for the adequate subject. And this is exactly what is touching us when we can’t take our eyes exclaiming “What’s an interesting and beautiful landscape…”

Many times I found out that some landscapes are perfect subject for paintings, while as the photographs they might not be so interesting. From my point of view, the subject I am referring to below is one of these cases…

I like to walk along the Liffey Quays and every time I find the river site, reflections colours, clouds and buildings different. Usually I have a sketch pad with me and the camera. The camera gives me the “perfect” lines, perspective and deep of field, which I want to avoid in my painting. If I change the angle of the lens with only a millimetre, there will be a completely different result. In this case the camera’s viewfinder is not “our eye”. The camera “stops” the moment, the unique one…

_DSC6987Here is exactly the time, when I take the pencil and start sketching. It might take one minute, or one hour…  it depends on the weather, mood, day-time. The sketch I did this time took me less than a minute and in this particular case I wanted to draw only the place of the objects in composition, their relations “on the paper” as I can see them, but not the camera. Then I took the reference photographs from exactly the same place, the same angle, the same position.

_DSC6931The result after the comparison is amazing. Of course I used the drawing for my watercolour painting – no perfect lines, no exact shapes and colour… Just impression, just “a little” of the evening mood, solitude… I finished today this painting at home, and despite that outside is a fantastic nice sunny morning, I’ve been trying to stay a little bit more, alone on that Liffey Quay…

About Tofan Gheorghe

I was born in Moldova. Have my degree in human communication. Love reading, writing, watercolor. I live and work in Dublin, Ireland.
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3 Responses to Photographs as Reference for Landscape Painting

  1. Excellent post Tofan, as a photographer I can see exactly why an artist might want to use a photo for a painting andI did a collaboration with Jots from a Small Apartment whereby she sketched a photo ofd mine. The two are very different and for me both work. What I fail to understand is why an artist would paint a scene as if it were a photo (photorealism). In your example you have clearly brought a feeling and sense that would be difficult to capture by the camera, except perhaps at night in B/W. Good work. MM 🍀

    • Thank you MM! It took me a while to accept what I something found difficult , or even impossible to understand. Perhaps people are doing many things just “for pleasure”. (And these things are not related always to arts, unfortunately) So, why the artists, who ever – professionals, amateurs, singers, writers, photographers, ceramists… are trying to express themselves through their creation? Philosophers called it during the history “Catharsis”, Zigmund Freud had his sophisticated original view on the act of creating something. I call it simply “the state of pleasure” or “the state of happines”…

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