Monday, January 22, 2018

Combining Reference Material to Get What You Want.

Recently I was asked to paint a local landscape for a friend and was given free reign about the specifics.  That is the best kind of commission.  No bad photo to make the most of or specific landmarks to deal with.  I decided I would try a dramatic sky/sunset over our flat marshlands.  I went to my "ideas" file of skies and picked this one-

I love the colors and light in the sky as well as the reflections, but there are a couple of problems here.  We know that photos lie, especially in high contrast conditions.  I took this photo recently and I remember that the land mass was not black.  It might be almost black at night, but there was still quite a bit of light at this time.  Besides that, this is a very boring composition.  There are 3 shapes (sky, land, water) that are very close to the same size.  The tree line has the pines and deadwood that are typical in our area, but it practically forms a wall across the scene.

So, back to my "ideas" file of local landscapes.

This is much more interesting.  There is a nice water shape to lead the eye into the painting and to allow for reflections.  The tree line is very characteristic, but tapers off for a long marsh view.  The small structures in the distance don't add anything and can be substituted for more distant trees.  But this is an afternoon photo which wasn't what I wanted.

While looking at the second photo I blocked in the darks and the shape of the water. Once I worked out the composition I only looked at the first photo for the drama in the sky and the water.  I kept a little bit of light in the land mass, avoiding a black flat shape.

This was local scenery, which was requested, but I took the liberty of using photos from two different sites, each with something of interest.

Save your reference photos and mix it up!  Many of us are having a tough winter.  It is a good time to organize your files and find inspiration.

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