Working From Life

There is much to be said for painting, or drawing, from a live set up.  In today’s digital age photography couldn’t be much easier, making it very convenient for artists to work directly from their computer monitors.  And why not?  It’s a tremendously useful tool for doing all sorts of things.  It’s great if you need to zoom way in for a closer look at some detail.  You can also edit and manipulate your reference photos to make them into anything you can imagine.

However, cameras do not see the way your eyes do.  They only record a limited range of values, far less than what you and I are able to perceive from life.  That’s not to say that cameras don’t take amazing images; they certainly do!  But your eyes are better at seeing color and value and subtle nuances that the camera just isn’t able to.

Here you can see my shadow box with a simple still life.  It allows me to do small set ups which are great for doing studys and small oil sketches. If you are an artist who only works from photos I would suggest that you take a little time and make your own little set up area.  It doesn’t have to be a shadow box or anything elaborate.  It can be as simple as a an end table by a window or a shelf next to a lamp.

However you choose to work is up to you.  I like using both methods and find they each have their pros and cons.  I’d love to hear from you and get your thoughts on the matter.  Send me some pics and maybe help me improve my own studio!  Thanks for reading!


Still life or portrait?

Still life with skull and rose, 12″x 16″ oil on panel

This is Ed … Ed the bone head.  No, I did not name him though I might have, many years ago.  He is a plastic version of the human skull and a very willing painting model to boot!  So much so, he never asked for a single break throughout the entire process.  Thanks, Ed.

I’ve been working on a number of portraits lately and decided I needed to revisit the structural framework of the human face.  It truly is an amazing piece of design and if you’ve never drawn or painted one from life I suggest you get yourself one.  I also wanted to make my study a bit more interesting so I dug around in my box of goodies and came up with this simple still life.

Turns out it wasn’t so simple after all.  I had a bear of a time building structure in the shadow areas, which is like eighty percent of my subject.  The colors and values were so close I had difficulty rendering them.  I had to resort to exaggerating what I saw and then try and knock them back so they looked more like what they were supposed to.  I feel like my approach wasn’t quite right and will definitely have to do some more experimentation.

It’s okay if you don’t get it right every time.   You have an idea and then you try it out; some things will work and others won’t.  It’s all part of getting better at what you do.  So, as the saying goes, “Back to the ol’ drawing board!

Thanks for reading!