photography/painting debate is an argument that is worldwide. Many
artists deny ever using photographs. I agree, it’s nice if you
can paint from life, but I’d like to try to prove that those of
us who use photographs as reference are NOT breaking any rules. Even
before photography, artists used the camera obscure.
as a result of much research over the last day or so, are some photos
that will nip in the bud any claims that famous artists don’t use
photos. I always remember reading once that there are two kinds of
artist … “those who sometimes use photos and admit it and
those who sometimes use photos but don’t admit it”.
note that I am quoting (as close as I can remember) and the above quote
is intended by me to be tongue-in-cheek. I am quite aware that many
artists NEVER use photos … and that is cool.
Let me name just a few who have used photography. You may recognize some of the names:
DEGAS, ALPHONSE MUCHA, KAHLO,
CEZANNE, GAUGUIN, LAUTREC,
Painter Norman Rockwell‘s
illustrations graced the covers of countless magazines over the course
of the 20th century, becoming a much-loved piece of American culture
for their simple snapshots of life. You might recognize many of the
works, and even the name behind the paintings, but did you know that
virtually all of the images started out as photographs.
coming up with a concept for a painting (he was almost always
commissioned by magazines and ad agencies), Rockwell would enlist the
help of a photographer (he rotated between a group of them) to turn
that idea into a photo. The subjects in the photos were his friends and
photograph was made, Rockwell then used his artistic talents combined
with simple tracing to translate that photograph into the painting he
had in mind. Rockwell never painted freehand
How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Painting from Photographs
spent way too much time in murky classrooms looking at slides, slides,
and more slides. I’m convinced that the entire academic field of
art history would grind to a halt without projectors, carousels, and
slides. But what is weird about looking at so many images is that I
find myself thinking that I know exactly what a sculpture or a painting
really looks like because I’ve seen a photograph of it.
Photographs can never tell you the full story of an object, landscape,
or person’s face, but they are convenient references for artists.
The reality is that most artists use source photos in some capacity
when they work, whether to jog their memory of a particular place and
time or to record specific visual details to incorporate in later
But to produce
a successful piece of art, an artist has to be wary and attentive to
what he or she is seeing—and not seeing—in a photograph.
That starts with understanding the limitations of reference photos.
Artist Mark Haworth puts it this way: “The camera cannot see like
the eye can when it comes to color accuracy, depth of field, and the
warms and cools of highlights and shadows. There’s a lot of
distortion that comes along with photographs.”
Pastel artist and instructor Denise LaRue Mahlke agrees.
“Following a photo to a ‘T’ is a big mistake, because
the camera lies,” she says. “Photos can be indispensable as
a jumping off point, but even if the photo is an excellent one, you
want to reinvent the scene for a painting to work.”
personally agree with what has be stated above by these three
contributors. However, you be the judge. I have added the links
to direct you to the source material showing additional photography to
prove the point.
This also brings up the question whether the use of a photograph as reference, or in any other way, reduces the value of the painting. From the artists names listed above I would think not.