My Denali Painting
As artists, it’s easy to paint strictly from a photograph and we look to get as close to the photo as we can. If we see a rock, we’ve got to paint all the cracks in it and as many blades of grass as we can pick out. We then realize that brushes aren’t made small enough and we spend lots of time nose to nose with the canvas or paper.
Why paint something that looks like a photograph? If it’s a photo you want…use a camera instead!
Painting is more than replicating photographs. Being a painter is about interpreting the world in your manner and your style.
We should never let the reference override our vision. A photo can dictate the details and it’s a safe method for many artists. But, letting the photo drive our artistic bus means we don’t have to think artistically at all. The hues, the values and the composition are all there for the taking. Most of the time they are all wrong, but we don’t mind because we think we have followed the photograph to a “T”.
Professional artists use a photograph only as a reference and rely more on their knowledge and years of experience to produce outstanding results.
Before they start, they take charge of the elements. If there are distracting things in the photo, they leave them out or change them. They move things around so the composition is more balanced – as artists we are allowed to do this. I have never seen a photograph of any subject that is perfect artistic wise….it doesn’t exist because nature is random and messy….and then there are over and under exposures.
Atmospherics are important. See those far away objects that look dark and sharp in the photo? Make them lighter, bluer, and not as sharp – your painting will begin to have some depth. Colors in the fore ground should be warmer.
Change the sky, add objects from other photos, leave out trees, buildings, and paint grass as a mass instead of individual blades.
Most likely your finished painting won’t look like the reference photo at all. But, it will appear more interesting and it’s your creation.
Photo caption: There are many ways Mt. Denali in Alaska can be photographed. I modified the photo and added a foreground with fireweed. And then a lone tree as a focal point to represent the solitude of permafrost country.