Thursday, October 24, 2013

Arkansas River: Painting vs. Photo

Note: I will be posting all of the entries in the "Plein Air Persistence" contest 
late today or tomorrow. I can't do it right now because I'm in transit at the moment.

One of the reasons I love painting directly from Nature instead of just from photos is that I can see so many colors that the camera can't register. 
Here's a study in watercolor and gouache. I was trying to replicate the colors I saw, and I don't think I was exaggerating them too much (OK, maybe I was enhancing them a little bit).

I took a photo at the same time, and maybe I'm a lousy photographer, but it seems that the camera missed a lot of the warm and cool variation at midrange values. So if this photo was all I had to go on, I wouldn't even know those colors were there. 

That said, I'm fascinated by photography, and I occasionally enjoy trying to incorporate certain photographic effects (such as color grading, lens flares, and bokeh) in scenes that I'm painting directly from observation. Also, as a reference tool, the photo has a lot of useful information for form and texture. So really, the ideal field reference is a combination of plein-air studies and photos.

Next up is our adventure homeward on Greyhound and Amtrak.

15 comments:

Juho Vepsäläinen said...

What do you think of HDR photography? That should definitely help with dynamics.

Joan M. Mas said...

This sketch deserves the praise of reminding you of John Singer Sargent's watercolours with the same subjects (like mountain streams). Wonderful colours!

phiq said...

Could you boost a photo's colour saturation in Photoshop to get some kind of a sense of the setting's true colours? I am currently painting a piece that includes sunlight reflecting off the earth as seen from space; obviously I cannot head out and observe that myself, without NASA's help...

David Webb said...

I often take photos to use on 'rainy days' on my painting courses. I am always struck though, by how flat they seem to how I remembered the original scene (especially greens). This is one reason why I always tell my students that they should interpret, not copy, when using them.

Psycho James said...

Your painting from nature is beautiful an, I am glad you didn't copy it from a Photo! Photos are nice for some things but, not for Plein air. If a person want's to just copy the painting from a photo then, why not just stick to taking photos! On site painting wins in my book over a photograph! Most photos are not that vibrant and need to be fixed in photoshop anyway! So you did an incredible job capturing nature!

Karitxa said...

I was in Oregon over the summer and hiked out to see the Blue Pool in the Willamette Wilderness which is a deep striking sapphire blue that looks completely unnatural. Your painting vs. photo comparison reminds me of my struggles to photograph it and makes me wish I'd taken some watercolors with me that day.

Thank you for posting your paintings of the Rockies. I've really enjoyed seeing them through your eyes. I hope you and Jeanette have a good train and bus ride safely home!

Dustin Chapman said...

As new reader of the gurney journey I have found myself picking up many great ideas for my own studies. I have a new found fascination with casein. I picked up a copy of color and light. I also found myself reading many of the comments from others. I appreciate the comments as well as subtle instruction from James. This is more of a relaxing read rather than a direct instruction. Thank you James for inspiring me once again. I can't wait to delve through your previous entries.

Cheers from Ohio
Dustin

Dustin Chapman said...

I love HDR photography as long as it doesn't get too gritty or over saturated.
Just a thought

Seidai Tamura said...

This is exactly what I'm doing for my next landscape painting. I did a plein air pencil drawing and painting studies, and also took some reference photos. Combining all of those information, I will create a finished studio painting of the scene. One downside of plein air this summer...had to fight against nosy yellowjackets!

Steven Quinones-Colon said...

You seem to be hopping from watercolor to Gouache to Casein a lot these days. Have you establish some sort of criteria for what to chose for which subject? or is your selection of painting media less logical than that? ;-)
Great work!

Erik Bongers said...

Lenses often have colour abberation removal coatings to remove colour casts as a result of spectral effects within the lens and often a UV coating to remove a strong blue cast in the shadows on very clear days.

If, on top of that, a lens has some polarizing effect, the reflection of the sky on the water is partially removed.

I can well image that for small or cheap lenses in consumer cameras, a polarizing filter is added as such a filter removes haze and reflections and thus saturates colours, removes glare and increases contrast. I have no real information on the latter - it's just speculation.

Seth Rosamilia said...

While I think a truly gifted photographer can retain a lot of those values in a photo, there's just a subtle level of nuance that can't be detected by anything other than first-hand observation, I think.

jytte said...

Dear James
If you haven't posted the photo I think everybody would take your colours for the true ones which I am sure they are. Many times I am surprised to notice that people seing the same scene at the same moment interprete the colours quite differently. :o)

Kimm Hill said...

I love both your photography and paintings. You use the colors very well.
Ocean Artwork

Eric said...

I shoot with film for my landscapes because there are films designed to be more vibrant and to show a scene as it actually appears to the eye.

Now if only I could be a better painter :)