[ .Featured Artists ][ Paul Harman ]

Painting from Photographs

By Art Cocoon Featured Artist Paul Harman

As many artists are now turning to photos for inspiration, we asked our Art Cocoon Featured Artist, Paul Harman, to talk about how he approaches painting through photographs. Here’s what he said:

Music is to many the elixir of the heart and soul. For many of us it transports us to a fond memory, or just speaks to us of its beauty, calming our heart. So too are beautiful vistas that just leave us spellbound. We can’t comprehend the vastness, or the amazing color or majesty of the view. These are the kind of scenes that speak to an artist and the creativity within them.

I saw such a vista in Colorado, above the famous old mining town of Leadville. The twin Lakes reservoir is at 11,000 feet, in front of majestic peaks withAspens among the trees on the slopes below Mount Harvard. Standing on the shore in the crisp October mountain air, I took some photos of this scene and thought I would paint it when I returned to my studio in Auburn, California.

When I began painting this scene from a photograph, I realized that the aspens were bare and certainly not glowing. The deep green forests I saw looked dull in my photograph. As I began recreating this scene on the sanded paper on my easel, I realized the dry lakebed of the reservoir wasn’t particularly beautiful or interesting and added nothing to the painting. Such is the case when one paints from photographs. Some may have said, well choose another better photo of another scene.

That is when the artist within us must look beyond the photograph and create the scene one wants the viewer to enjoy. We cannot rely strictly upon the photograph. We have to use our imagination to improve on nature. Sometimes we have to remove distracting trees, telephone poles, or clutter and then brighten the color to develop a beautiful painting. Sometimes we have to add a point of interest or adjust the view.

In this particular case, I decided to fill the reservoir and since that wasn’t enough, create a mirror reflection of the mountains in its waters. I also decided to make the bare aspens glow with fall color, and took out some of the brush in the foreground to simplify it. The resulting painting “Mountain Reflections” had far more interest and color for the viewer. Photographers often use Photoshop to improve the color on an image or take out a distracting pole. Use your own creative instincts to produce your own work of art. That is called artistic license and it does make a difference!