Monday, February 14, 2011

Nothing Natural About Art

In the old days, when I was in a photography forum for many years, the helpful people there would sometimes give me advise that was impossible to follow. They would try to tell me one of my photos would be better if such and such a thing wasn't in the picture, even if it was something that couldn't be avoided. Or they would suggest it might have been better if I had stepped a couple of feet to the left. In such cases I would have fallen off a cliff, or gone over some waterfall. One thing I like about painting is that I can solve some of these problems with a little artistic license.

Last month I mentioned that I was taking an online course to learn how to turn my photographs into paintings, since I had already learned that even the best photo didn't necessarily translate into a successful painting. We have just finished week 3 of 12 today.
Last week we had homework. We were supposed to post a photograph, both before and after cropping it to demonstrate that we have understood what had been taught so far. Now this was a difficult assignment for me since I generally crop in camera, so I had to really look for something that I had forced me to stand in the wrong place in order to take any picture at all.

I found one that fit the bill because there was water where I would likely have preferred to stand. Then I decided afterwards that it wasn't much of a picture anyway, and I certainly never considered painting it.

So I did the cropping, just to show that I understood the various principals that had been introduced the previous week.
I got rid of the excess sky, and anything else that wasn't necessary. This put the centre of interest in the upper left hand intersection of thirds, which is a good spot for a center of interest to be.
I also fixed it so the lead in grass didn't start in the corner, as that's not a good thing for it to do.

Saturday, during class, the instructor pulled up my photo from among those submitted, and after agreeing with the cropping, as far as I had taken it, proceeded to stick it in his Photoshop and use it to illustrate what would need to be done to the picture to make a decent painting out of it.

Firstly off, I know he doesn't like triangles, so I had already said I would deal with that while painting. He showed us all how, and did it for a totally different reason. My crop had the foreground grasses stopping in the wrong place, he said. They should stop at either 1/3 or 2/3 of the way across the bottom of the picture.
He pushed it back to the 1/3 position.
Oh hey, he told us to crop the picture, but never mentioned we could manipulate it.

He also pointed out that the background trees didn't have a very interesting line. I had already noticed that too, and would have stuck some taller ones in there if I had been inclined to paint it.

Then, of course, he didn't like the metal bridge, with all it's straight lines, and suggested I google for some stone bridge and stick that in the painting instead. Oh, and it would be good if I made it taller, so that it overlapped more of the background.

Oh hey wait, this useless photo might make a decent painting yet. It won't in any way resemble the original scene, but apparently it doesn't have to.

I've just learned that if you want to create art, it's best not to let nature get in the way.


  1. I especially like that last sentence.

  2. Nature is beautiful. Our own manipulations can be awful. Don't forget to give credit to "the original".

  3. LOL! I just HATE it when Nature gets in the way!

    I thought the photo was pretty good. Now I feel like a dork. :) What do I know???? You should try painting it so we can see what you would do to improve the photo!

  4. Ogg, Nature is beautiful, and you can take beautiful photos of natural things, but those photos often do not translate into decent paintings. Until I started taking this course, I never could figure out why that was, but I'm starting to see the light.

  5. Thanks for posting this. I am in Johannes classes too and that's the one day that I missed so this was nice to see.

  6. Well if I was painting a scenery, well known to me or the person for whom I was doing it. I certainly could not change as much as that. But if you are painting , or creating, out of your imagination , using an existing scenery as a guide then I can see it. But cant beat mother nature , when painting en plein air.

    I was one cricticised for having a very pink area on mountain, by my watercolour instructor which in fact it was at sunset and recently someone fell in love with it because of it. .... go figure.