Paint From Photo – Go To Hell; Bring Rd,Yw,Orn Paint To Capture The Light

First of all, who ratted me out?  Lisa never would have looked at the Bill page since we had that spat over the apostrophe business (see post “Uh Oh” of May 15th in Rants). 

Ok, now that I’m outed, I will admit to being an inveterate copier.  Sometimes I even push the copy envelope.  I was trying to impress this wealthy woman (looking for a sugar momma to finance painting and lollygaging in the south of France) ; I bought a Picasso, painted over his name and then signed my name.  This, in copy parlance, is known as quick copy.  In retrospect, I should have signed my name before I bought the painting; it had a considerable affect on the price.  I tried to uncover the original signature to get the price back up but forgot where I painted it out.  Now I’ve scraped down the whole damn painting and it is ruined (except for my signature).

You’ve heard that mantra – “Don’t paint from photos; OK, if you must, paint from your own photos”.  How does one get a license to make these rules?  And watch how these rules work for the rule makers:


        Q.  How do I paint this toddler?  The little shit won’t hold still for 2 minutes and I can’t paint that fast?

        A.  Ok, this would be an exception that I, rule maker, would allow, but take your OWN photos.

        Q.  I want to do a painting of an otter.  Should I kill it, have it stuffed, and then do that most creative paint from life bit?

        A.  NO!! We rule makers are treehuggers as well.  This is an exception I will allow.  But, listen to me Goddamn it, take your OWN photos.

        Q. Uncle Earl died 5 years ago and my aunt wants a painting done from a photo taken of him in high school.  Should I tell my aunt to shove it, I only paint from my OWN photos?

        A. You are getting on my nerves kid.  Tell your aunt you will do it just this once and then never again paint from someone else’s photo.

        Q.  Didn’t you paint a copy of a painting from a PHOTO of that painting?  I mean the original painting is in the Getty (see Lisa Page), they don’t let you paint at the museum so you must have painted from a photo.  Was it your OWN photo?  And if it was, why bother?  There are better photos already available.  You would not have had to drive down to take your OWN and thereby generate more air pollution to keep your quite flexible rules from being violated.

You get the idea by now I hope.  If not, what can I say.  I can only tell you, I can’t give you the brains to understand.

Why do we hear that litany of painting rules?  Well, because they have merit.  Let’s look at some of the merits and de-merits of painting from life and/or photos.


GOOD – This is regarded as the requiring the highest level of skill and of being the best for student learning.  It is the only way to see the real image of what you are painting;  the actual values, colors, shapes, and relationship to surroundings.  If you take a photo, no matter how good the camera or photographer, you will not get the values, colors, shapes and relationships of the real subject.  You can prove this to yourself by taking a picture, displaying it on two monitors at once and comparing to the real thing.  You will see that the monitors don’t agree with each other or with the real subject.  Further, if you then print the image, you will get different colors again.

BAD –  If you want to paint a model, time is limited.  I can’t convince anyone to pose for 100 hours for a full size painting.  If you are painting a landscape there are a host of potential issues: bugs, wind, rain, cold, snow, rapidly changing light, traffic, winos, need to pee, etc.


GOOD – Very convenient, you can take a picture of a cold snowy day in Vermont, then paint from it in the warmth of California.  The light does not change.  You can get a accurate drawing by making measurements from the photo.   

BAD –  I’m always taking photos and thinking quality doesn’t matter as it is just a reference and I will remember what I need from being here.  Then when I look at it weeks later, I realize it does not look at all like the scene I was viewing.  The darks are too dark with no information or the lights are too light with no information.

I personally don’t think it matters (copyright laws aside) whether you paint from your own or someone else’s photos.  There is a school of thought that if you take your own, the atmosphere you took it in will influence the emotional connection and therefore the quality of the final work.  That is, you were there smelling the smells, being  bit by the bugs, and sweating under the sun.  This memory will supposedly affect the painting.

A final thought – there are not many things in life more enjoyable than doing a plein air painting with a friend.  Put those cameras away and paint from life! 

 I’ve got to get to work.  Do you have any more of those cigarettes?


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One Response to Paint From Photo – Go To Hell; Bring Rd,Yw,Orn Paint To Capture The Light

  1. simplyleap says:

    This rocks, my sentiments exactly! I guess we are in the minority?

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