Friday, September 24, 2010

Photographs - An Artist's Pothole

I am not so sure I am a fine artist so much as I am a photographer. I take hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of photographs. Mostly to record something striking or unique or something to file away as reference material. And inevitably, someone sees a photo and asks …. ‘ will you paint that for me’. I try to explain it may be a lovely photograph but will not necessarily be a ‘lovely’ painting.  And I am having difficulty climbing out of this artistic pothole.

Case in point. This photograph was taken to record the range of reds of the Atlantic coast oak trees. The oak trees we have in Ontario turn a rust colour in the fall and I was struck by the reds of these oaks.  That was my only reason for the feelings, no sensations, no thoughts of recording as a painting or sketch.  Sure enough; a request for this subject as a painting.

I have tried, and tried, and discarded numerous attempts. I cannot seem to stir the feelings necessary to commit this photograph to a painting and have decided I will not make any further attempts.

So tell me, how do other artists handle this type of situation. I would have loved to paint the canvas as requested; nor for any profit, but because a friend so wants this as a painting. I now will enlarge the photograph and they can do what they will with that.

Should I have been able to see a painting in this photograph? Can an artist always see a painting in a photograph? Nothing happens when I look at these crimson trees….except to say ….. ‘ well, look at the red trees’!

Am I missing a message here that I should see as a fine art artist?


  1. I see an amazing abstract in those trees. Fingers painting it. All sorts of texture used to capture it.

  2. Thanks Ralph, May give that a try. You are so gifted to be able to see beyond the visual!

  3. Hi Ruby, interesting post today. In my metal work I often give the clients a sketch but always warn them that the piece that I am creating may bare no resemblence to the sketch!
    The sketch puts me in the mood and gives me perameters to work with and I look at it a lot and then dream aboout the job. Once I start the job I never go back and refer to my original drawing.
    From your photo I see the beautiful and varied reds, the wonderful water and spike reflections, the debth to it and its balance and the way it is wonderfully framed with the trees. It is beautiful but I would never copy a perfectly good photograph.

  4. Thanks've hit the nail right on the head! Don't see how copying a perfectly good photo makes it a painting. It would be just that a photo copy.
    Much like I know one artist to do....he projects the photo onto canvas ... draws it exactly and colours it the same as the photo. Mind, the canvases are picture perfect...but they lack soul.
    May do what Ralph suggests and turn this into something different.

  5. Ruby

    For your friends that want a "Painting" of the photograph ... for not to large a sum of money you can have the photo printed on canvas ... looks great, and is an exact copy of a beautiful photo. Great to hang in any home. They can even do quite large pieces. As to any soul ... or spirit ... I would rely on Ralph's suggestion.

    Let it go, or keep it within ... but your photo is wonderful, and you do have an eye for the beauty of nature. Love the reds ... and all the other sutble colors ... captured well.

  6. That is a really beautiful photo, captured at the most beautiful time of the day. Since I am not a painter , I would just frame it, and hang it on one of my dark blue walls. It would look so pretty, and arresting all at once.