Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Painting from Photographs, II

"Spirea" 5x7 pastel sketch
from life

In my last blog post, I noted that we've been painting from snapshots for over a hundred years . Of course, many artists have painted and continue to paint from life. But it's appalling how many students paint from photos and nothing else. They're missing the joy of working from life, where all questions are answered truthfully. Photos can answer questions about details, but they prevaricate when it comes to questions about color and value.

What did students do before the photo? In addition to painting from life (and from plaster casts), they copied the works of the Masters. The Masters had asked the questions and received the answers, and their painting are thus largely complete. Paintings by the Masters offered compositions carefully worked out with value and color manipulated to present an idea to its fullest. Copying the Masters taught you composition, color use and concept. Working solely from photos will not teach you any of this. What it will teach you is how to copy a photograph - not to create art.

2 comments:

Anita Stoll said...

The work is beautiful and fresh and there is something to what you say. I am almost 100% studio paper. I don't do still lifes from photos however.
I love your work, who knows maybe I will try it again.

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Thanks, Anita!