Friday, October 11, 2013

Get Drawing Help through Photography

"Clearing (Acadian Prince)" 18x24 oil/canvas

Lately, I've been working on a studio painting of boats.  Boats, as anyone knows who has drawn or painted them, are tricky.  They're made up of compound curves that can be confusing to the eye.  I consider my drawing skills sufficient for my purposes, but boats always require more care and double-checking of angle and proportion measurements.

Most of us are familiar with the idea of using a mirror to look at a painting-in-progress in reverse to check design.  This can also help with drawing, but I accidentally came across another method that seems to work better.

When painting large pieces that require several days or steps, I like to take photos of the work in progress.   For this piece, while back at my computer viewing the photos, I happened to look at the original reference photo beside the latest photo - and immediately saw I was in trouble.  I was able mentally to flip back-and-forth between these two images to see where the drawing needed correction.

Below is the reference photo plus that in-process shot.  Look at the areas highlighted by red circles. You can see that, on the boat on the right, the gunwale needed to be raised, and the gunwale on the left-hand boat also needed adjusting, among other things.  These were clear to me right away.

At the top of this post is the finished painting.

One has to keep in mind, of course, the distortion that comes with a snapshot.  The reference photo itself has some perspective issues which I believe I was able to correct in the painting based on experience and some pencil sketches I made.  Of course, the in-process shots will also be distorted, depending on the lens size and how much zoom you are using.  I try to check for distortion in the viewfinder and adjust the zoom to remove as much as possible.  Fortunately, the canvas consists of four right angles and four straight sides, so it's easy to judge.  I find that using the zoom lens somewhere in the middle of the zoom seems to have the least distortion.

Although this method may not help with minute errors, it certainly helped me find some of the larger, more obvious ones.

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