The recent post about painting from photographs created some friendly debate. Some believe it is fine to use photographs as they’re just another useful tool for the artist, while others believe it’s almost cheating, or certainly taking a shortcut.
My opinion is somewhere in between as I think both should be used. I think you should be there in front of your subject to get a feel for it, but I also think it’s fine to take a photo of that subject to complete the painting in the studio.
Here’s a few opinions of visitors to artnewsblog.. (See all the comments here and here.)
- Atims said.. “Painting from a photograph isn’t so much the same thing as painting from ‘life’ shall we say, because the material in the photograph is not moving; is not changing.”
“I think photographs are a great reference for a painter especially of people he can no longer see, or places he cannot get to. Of course looking at a photograph is definitely not the same as seeing it in person. And no one can argue this fact. What you see is never really exactly what you get.”
“A photograph captures fleeting moments better than your eye can…like a flying bird perhaps. So, using photographs is helpful in maybe getting detail. This is not to say that going out and drawing/sketching/painting real life gives you less detail. Those are two completely different things. Like art news blog said, photography is too useful to ignore.”
- Zichi Lorentz said.. “I have been an artist for 40+ years. Photographs, like a pencil or a brush, or even a hammer, is just a tool. You are free to use whatever, whenever you want. I enjoy painting outside but it’s hard work. If da Vinci was alive today, he would be using a Mac laptop!”
- Anonymous said.. “The end result is what counts. Bad wine in a bottle is worse than good wine in a box. Some artists produce boring pictures from real life. Others are equally boring from photos and vice versa. Imagination is whats needed.”
- Adrienne said.. “Personally, I got “hooked” on photo-reference when doing a child’s portrait. They don’t fuss move or cry! Yes, I check back for details when possible. But I found it easier to get portrait contracts from anywhere in the world! Warmth, depth & character are still attainable.”
- Karl said.. “I never work from photographs. This forces me to either work from imagination, or to seek real examples of what I need to draw or paint. I find that this gives good results. The problem is, when I look at other people’s work, I do not know how to interpret it, because I do not know if it is made with photos or not.”
“In my own work, I see the same effect. If I have birds in a picture, and they look realistic, it means that I was walking around for days with a sketchbook, making quick drawings of birds, and that I used those studies to paint the birds. That is different from copying from a photo. More difficult, and more fun.”
- Jiva Soul said.. “As far as I’m concerned, If you’re simply trying to copy a photo realistically…you may as well just use the photo & put down the brush.”
- Anne Manley said.. “I never work straight from a photograph. I keep them around for inspiration. To remember places I’ve been, people I’ve seen. Simply a reference. I must agree with Zichi Lorentz, there are no rules in art. Ultimately, the final piece is from what’s inside of you.”
- Jennie Rosenbaum said.. “I think its great to finally admit it. I take photographs and use them for muscular reference or light values all the time. Being disabled it is hard for me to go out to life classes and I cant afford a model at this stage so photographs combined with imagination are the best thing for more! a digital camera, printer and imagination are all I need.”
I think generally artists are accepting of the camera. Some may be closet camera users, but there are probably very few purists that never use photography as a tool to paint. Unless of course you’re an abstract painter.
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