Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Changing my Mind and more about Working from Photos

Switzerland is a beautiful place and we are lucky enough to be able to visit fairly often and during our first visit earlier this year, we had glorious weather.  I took masses of photos always with a view to painting them. Now I'm not sure if this happens to you but only a handful seem promising when I finally get to view them on here... why is that?

Anyway I do love painting poppies and there was a huge cornfield with clumps of wild poppies growing and I did think I would have a go, even though the images didn't look all that promising.

This is a selection of photos from the field to give you a feel for the view

The last image is the one I vaguely took the composition from and as you can see there is a sea of pale brown with odd bits of green. I thought I might do the painting like that but must have subconsciously changed my mind as it progressed as I found myself adding more blues, yellows and greens to the bg and moving away from the brown shades. Whether that is because I know green and red are complimentary and I am always looking for maximum contrast or whether on viewing I felt the combination a touch boring (am inclined to believe the latter is the case!!) I'm not sure but once again illustrates we don't need to stick to the colour scheme we see....the image is there as a starting point, and in terms of colour, shape, composition, tone etc, just there as a clue, a bit of guidance but not to be followed implicitly.

The composition took on more of a square feel and evolved as I painted it. Unusually for me I worked across the piece from right to left... normally I work across the whole painting at once, trying to make sure I work on dry areas around the piece but this happened differently (no idea why!!). So the darks were added as I moved across helping to build the composition as I went along. I then decided it needed a quin gold glaze across the whole of the top... I had kept the left quite warm and yellow and realised the right side needed a touch of warmth too. This is where I don't have to be a slave to my photo, I give myself permission to do whatever I like and whatever I think will improve my painting be it the colour, the composition, the light in fact anything at all. Because all those decisions are specific to me and my perception on the day, that is why painting like this creates a unique piece of art that not even I can copy!!

Next, I plan to do a close up of one or two heads and see where that takes me. Another benefit of painting like this is that I can use the same image and produce all sorts of different paintings and trying to think of different ways to do things certainly exercises the creative brain cells!!  I am always trying to challenge my students into using their own palette... sometimes I am very mean to them and don't tell them what colours I am using and they are sometimes quite frightened of making a mistake but often find it has been liberating too and they end up quite pleased with their results as their painting has their own stamp on it.


  1. As you know I mostly work from the photos me or Gary has taken while we're out and about - I'm trying more and more to sketch out and about now too (very quickly as it's not really fair on Gary or Holly to wait around for me -, whether I will keep it up I don't know as I like being on the move and if I do stop just to sit and take it all in ( I also keep forgetting to take my paints with me!!) Your poppies are beautifully done and the photo as you say is the inspiration - you are the artist who can bring your own creativity to the piece - just the way it should be!

    1. Thanks Sharon I also need to do more plein air even if it is just sketching, and I also keep saying that as well!! That's the problem, stopping while you're out and I don't think hubby and little puppy would be too pleased either so just the same issues as you!!

  2. It's interesting to hear your views on using photographs. Sometimes I take hundreds and only feel inspired by a few. I loved these poppies when I first saw them, how lovely to see them en masse in real life. You are lucky to be able to visit Switzerland, such a wonderful place.

  3. A photo can never quite capture what you have seen with your own eyes; you have created a very pleasing painting that expresses very well what you feel about these lovely flowers. I, too tend to take loads of photos but then use just a few to paint from.


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