Art & Perception + Painting from Photographs

I did my first post over at the Art and Perception blog today. It’s a community art blog with a growing list of contributors talking about all things art.

I reposted an old post asking the question; Is it OK to use photographs for painting? It’s something most painters, critics, and collectors seem to have an opinion on, so I thought it would be interesting to see what others think about it. See the post here (and feel free to share your opinion on the issue)

The blog also has an interesting mix of painters and photographers that seem to benefit from both trades. Rather than drawing a line between the painter and the photographer (as they are different creatures), they look for the similarities that each have.

A recent post is by the photographer Stephen Durbin, where he is asking for comments on his “Ghost Light” series of photographs. He also asks this question..

I’m also wondering how often it happens to painters or other artists that one is surprised, looking back on a work, to discover something quite unintended. As a painting or quilt or whatever takes more time in the making than a typical photograph, and may entail more active decisions regarding content, is the chance of later surprise any less?”
Steve

See the Art and Perception website here.
>> Photography News

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.

Comments

  1. I think the painting and photograph issue is one of the biggest challenges for artists today. Whatever one thinks about it, one thing is certain: the choice to use or not use photographs will have a huge impact on an artist’s work. There are huge advantages of using photographs, no doubt about that. But working from photos is, I believe, a fundamentally different art form than working without photos. The difference is as big as the difference, say, between oil painting and another medium, like egg tempera. For me, it is important to know which technique an artist used. Did she work from photos? Did he paint in oil? Previously I had negative thoughts about work from photos. I have grown in my ability to appreciate artwork of this kind, and I feel enriched by that. But I still feel it is important to know what I am looking at.

    Dion, this post made a huge impression on me when it first appeared on Art News Blog. It inspired me to interview Dan Bodner, for example, and ultimately to take up photography as an art form in itself (or try to, at least!) I still don’t paint from photographs, but I feel positive about photography and about other people’s painting from photography.

  2. thanks for bringing it up again, because it is an interesting and debatable issue. I never read your original post, must have been before I started reading your blog. I have the same subject up on my blog since another artist looking at my painting in my November exhibit made a comment. So I am enjoying the opinions here and on art & perception, and nice to see you contributing over there :)

  3. Anonymous says:

    AS an artist working from real life, images that live in my mind and photos. The question as to the piece created from these different inspirations is the same. How does the art make you feel? And if you love it, who cares?

  4. The difference in painting from photographs and painting from life is the same as looking at the Grand Canyon standing on the south rim or looking at a picture of the Grand Canyon taken from the south rim.
    It is all in the experience of the observer. When you paint from life you experience your subject in a very deep and emotional way. When you paint from a photograph you are responding to the photograph itself, it may be an exquisite photograph and you respond to the beauty of it, but you are not responding to the subject in any way other then appreciating the photograph.
    One woman’s opinion

  5. >>>When you paint from a photograph you are responding to the photograph itself
    Wouldn’t that depend on whether you took the photograph yourself? How would you know that is all the artist is doing? What if they have a passionate love of wild animals and use photographs as a reference source?

  6. Hey Karl, glad to finally do a post over at A&P.

    Jafabrit, I think your post brings up something that I try and avoid when using photographs to paint, which is trying to make it look like a photograph wasnt used.

    I dont think your painting of a woman looks like a photograph was used either.. it’s a natural pose that could have easily been done with a sitting.

    I think as an artist, if you’re going to use a photograph, it should at least be your photograph. Having said that, I have used the photographs of others before.

    The important thing is knowing your subject.. and of course, knowing your medium. A photograph can help you to know your subject better, so it’s a tool that all artists should be able to use (without feelings of guilt).

    I guess I have no firm opinion on the whole issue. As long as a painting looks like a painting, who cares how it became a painting?

    Dion

  7. Well when I did that painting I wasn’t consciously trying to make it not look like a photograph, I just painted it the way I wanted it to look. But I understand the value of your point.
    I agree about knowing your subject (the photograph is one I took of my daughter).

  8. For me it doesn’t matter whether the artist used a photo or not. What does matter is the end result. There are many paintings that have that flat look of a photograph and it becomes very obvious that’s what the artist used. In this instance, I would argue, the painting process itself becomes unnecessary (unless you are actually going for that). You could easily change out whatever elements you didn’t like in the original photo in photoshop so why bother painting it at all. A glossy print would look much better. If you’re one of the few that can use photos and not have it look like you did – kudos. Nothing wrong with that.

  9. For me it doesn’t matter whether the artist used a photo or not. What does matter is the end result. There are many paintings that have that flat look of a photograph and it becomes very obvious that’s what the artist used. In this instance, I would argue, the painting process itself becomes unnecessary (unless you are actually going for that). You could easily change out whatever elements you didn’t like in the original photo in photoshop so why bother painting it at all. A glossy print would look much better. If you’re one of the few that can use photos and not have it look like you did – kudos. Nothing wrong with that.

  10. too much worries here … but with a simple solution! for all the purists out there, make your own canvases, creat your own paint and fashion your brushes from scratch …. and then walk to work!

    oh, only reply to this comment by a hand written note attatched to the foot of a pigeon!

    thanks!

  11. I am currently just starting my dissertation for my fine art degree in Falmouth. I found this article very interesting as I am looking at the question of using photographs to paint from and specifically look at the use of drawing. I feel drawing is the fundamental key to painting and would love to have the same energy in my paintings that i have in my
    drawings from life. However i always use photographs when painting. My subject is animals so they are difficult to paint from life but George Stubbs did it and Rosa Bonheur did it- does anyone know how? -was it purely through hours of observational drawings of their subject building up a visual knowledge in their heads? Has anyone any advice on painting animals, mainly cows/horses from life?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Draw them alive, dead, inside and out. Don’t worry about making each picture a masterpiece, just get to know your subject.

    Life drawing classes will help loosen you up too.

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