Thursday, January 19, 2017

Intermediate Watercolor 1/19/17 Who's in Charge?

 Do you work from photos this time of year? If so, join the club. If not, I salute you. Given how many painters use photos for source material, I want to spend some time identifying the skills that help us not be bossed around by the camera.
Humans and cameras don't see the world the same way. First of all, unlike cameras, we do not see everything in focus at the same time. It may feel like we do, when our eyes flit so quickly from one spot to another. The instant we stop to observe part of the overall scene our eyes adjust to see that part clearly. It happens so fast it seems like nothing changed. Actually, most of what is visible to us at any given moment is out of focus!
Now that everyone has a camera in their pocket there are more photos than hamburgers. Most of these are point and shoot images, which tend to be in focus from foreground to back. It is useful to remember that this is a departure from human vision. Just because the photo shows us everything clear and sharp doesn't mean we have to paint it like that.

The full depiction of depth in this photo is in focus. Would there be any benefit to choosing soft edges in places before starting to interpret it as a watercolor?

It is often rewarding to alter the complexity of a distant feature, simplifying it despite how complex it may be in the photo. Here's a cityscape by David Taylor:

Those buildings in the background probably displayed much more information. Why do you think the artist chose to simplify them?

For homework, find a photo with everything in focus, or one chock full of information from foreground to background. Experiment with intentional changes. Keep track of what you were hoping to accomplish. If an alteration or adjustment doesn't have the desired effect, try changing a different variable. For example, what would Taylor's painting look like if those distant buildings were warm instead of cool?


This is a beautiful spot, for sure, but the space gets a bit ambiguous in the upper left quadrant. What might you do to get the foreground to emerge more obviously from the background?

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