March 2017: Artist's Newsletter
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Happy Spring <<First Name>>!

Reference photos can help or hurt a painter. In this edition of my artist's newsletter I talk about some of the challenges associated with painting from photographs. I also provide tips on how to avoid those problems, as well as a way you can use photographs to your advantage when trying to see values more clearly.


The value of a reference Photo:

Reference photos can be an invaluable tool for artists. Painting large, detailed landscapes would be almost impossible without them. They're also great way for plein air painters to document a location.

But when compared to the human eye, photos are bad at seeing a wide range of values (how light and dark something is).

Take a look at the photo I shot above. It seems like a nice scene, but when you study it closely you'll see that the treeline and the reflections in the water are almost completely black. The dark value areas are too dark and detail in those areas has been lost.

If you were to paint the scene as it appears above, because of the dark areas the piece would have the telltale signs of being done from a photograph.

Now look at the photo below. The dark value areas are more accurate. They are lighter and you can see details, but as a result the sky is now blown out and overexposed.


The photo below is a better example. The dark values are lighter and have detail, the sky isn't washed out and the foreground isn't too dark. This photo represents the best approximation of how the scene really looks to the human eye.

If you're painting from a photograph here are a few things to remember:
  • The shadow areas are probably too dark. Paint them lighter and with more detail than the photo shows.
  • If the sky looks white or very light gray it's likely washed out. If there's water in the scene you can look at the reflections for a clue as to the real color of the sky.

If you'd like to learn how to take better reference photos (Including how to take a picture with more accurate values like the one above) I'll be teaching two workshops on iPhone photography starting in April.
iPhone Photography Workshop

Wednesdays, 10am-12pm,  April 12 - May 10
Thursdays, 5pm-7pm, April 13 - May 11
For more information or to register, click here!
Upcoming Painting Demo:

I'll be doing a pastel painting demonstration during the March meeting of the Wilbraham Art League. Meetings are open to non-members, if you are interested in attending, please contact the Wilbraham Art League.
Date: March 14
Time: 6:30pm

If you're working from a photo and
are having a hard time distinguishing the values in your painting. Try changing your photo from color to black and white.

It's much easier to see values when color is absent.

Even just making a black and white photocopy of your photo will do!

Copyright Meg Bandarra 2016

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Meg Bandarra Pastel Painter · P.O. Box 33 · Northampton, MA 01060 · USA

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