Setting the Scenes, How I’ve Photographed the Artist’s Model

This is the fourth and final post in a series on how I work with the Artist’s model in order to get great photo reference for my paintings.

Now I get to play movie director, I’ve got my props, costumes, actors (models) and I’m ready to build some scenes. I begin by picturing my model in her “costume”, what could she be doing?

Here’s one example; I had this slender young woman coming to my house to be photographed in a blue night gown . I start walking through my house, room by room, imagining what she could be doing in a blue nightgown.

  • Standing by the bed, changing the sheets, making them billow in the air-
  • Walking down the stairs, dragging sheets behind her-
  • Standing at the kitchen sink, washing dishes-
  • Standing with a cup of coffee and looking out my back door-
Back Window by Diane Eugster
Back Window by Diane Eugster

As ideas come, putting down some thumbnail sketches will help me to keep things organized. Of course there will be some good spontaneous scenes happening, but my head is like a squirrel on steroids when I’m actually taking the photos, so I don’t want to forget any good possibilities .

Taking advantage of natural light coming in a window is another consideration. I photographed this model in my dining room as the light streamed in the windows.

First Light by Diane Eugster
First Light by Diane Eugster

Putting something in the model’s hand, usually helps to relax them, notice the coffee cup, the flower above and the piece of fruit below.

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My painting with the model holding an apple

Always be respectful of your models, remember, even if you are paying them, they are doing you a favor by lending their likeness to be photographed for your paintings. So I’m sure to;

  • Provide a private room for them to change in, hangers included –
  • Never push a model to wear something they don’t feel comfortable in –
  • Give them breaks, offer a cold drink and some time to rest-
  • Explain what I’m looking for, casual poses. Many people’s only experience with having pictures taken of them is smiling and look at the camera, so I tell them, picture a Sears photo portrait, that is exactly the opposite of what I’m looking for –
  • Provide your model with a CD of the photos you took or download them to a photo sharing site like Dropbox –
  • Pay your model in cash, and gratefully thank them –

Start painting from those fabulous photos!

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Equipment for photographing the Artist’s Model

This is the third post in a series on my experiences photographing people for artistic reference. Note: I’m not trying to sell or making any profit on anyone’s products that I suggest!

I have always used the simplest equipment to get the best results. For many years I  used a Sony 7.2 M Cyber Shot digital camera.

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Sony Cyber Shot

When I started joining photo sessions to shoot models at photography studios I had to upgrade to a digital SLR camera. Participating meant you snapped a transmitter on your camera which would trip the studio lights every time you took a picture. So I upgraded to a Canon Digital Rebel XT. It’s an easy camera to use, I’ve been very happy with it. As time goes by, these cameras have new models with more pixels per inch, but for my purpose, getting a clear, sharp 5″ x 7″ print is all that’s needed.

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Canon Digital Rebel XT

 

 

The only extra attachment I have is the 70-300 mm USM Telephoto lens, which was a great investment.

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The photo below was taken from a cliff hundreds of feet away from the subject with this lens.

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The Subject Photo

pain7The photo above, another beach shot from so far away, they never knew it! (notice the flip phone, this was taken awhile ago).

va010I caught this young woman in a rose garden in Portland, she never saw it coming!

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This one taken from 50 feet away, I love this lens!

Another piece of equipment that I sometimes use is a Chromalux Light for indoor shots.

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The only other thing that I use is a tripod for my camera.

Camera Tripod
Camera Tripod

 

When shooting picture indoors, it’s surprising how dark it is. Even with the Chromalux lamp, the camera shutter has to be open for a long time to get the light into the lens. When this happens it is virtually impossible to hold the camera steady enough, your pictures will end up looking like the one below-

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photo with no tripod

That’s it! In the next post I’ll talk about setting the scene(s).

Photographing the Artist’s Model, preparing the props

This is a part of a series on finding and photographing models for Artist’s reference. I’ve found like most things, the more I prepare, the more I’m going to get out of it.

The Inspiration

This is truly my favorite part, maybe better than working on the painting, because at this point, I’m a genius, I can do anything, I’m going to really create something special! Searching for inspiration, the magazine section of any large book retailer like Barnes and Nobel is a Disneyland of visual stimulation. I can find photos of everything from Cooks to Cowboys. A publication I really like for ideas is Belle Armoire magazine.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 2.47.19 PMAnother source of inspiration can be catalogs. A favorite of mine is the catalog for Free People clothing.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 6.41.01 PM Finding a direction

I limit my photo taking sessions to 1 and a half- 2 hours max, so a focus is important to get as much accomplished in that time as possible. In this 2 hour time frame I limit the clothing changes to three.

Keeping your model in mind, begin tearing pages out of your magazines and catalogs, tape them to a wall. Now reality kicks in… which looks could I create the essence of? I could definitely use the pony tail wrap, the funky sweater could be purchased at  GoodWill , plus hot glue on some fabric scraps. The look on the right; some drapes from the thrift store or an old bed spread , some fake fur from Joann’s and a trusty hot glue gun.

Note: again I’m talking about the essence of the photo, not copying it. These props are for your photos, they can even be held together with double stick tape. It’s the clothes and props that set the mood. If you can sew , all the better. The outfit on the model below; a piece of fabric knotted and hot glued for the headband, sleeves cut off an old shirt for gloves, I made the dress from an old maxi skirt brought up and  stitched to a tank top.

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I always like to ask the model if she has something special or unusual to bring. The hair stylist in the previous post was a belly dancer too, who knew, she brought her entire costume! Another model, the young woman below had her own Victorian dress.

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In the next post I’m going to talk about staging the photos, my camera and lighting.

 

Location, Location, Location

This is part of several blog posts that share my experience over the years with finding, setting up and taking photos of people for my paintings. In this post I’m going to talk about the places I like to use to take these photos.

note; It would be nice to have live models to paint from, but most of the time it’s just not realistic. The cost of hiring someone for 4 or 5 days is cost prohibitive, and down right boring to many people. A good balance for me is to attend a life drawing session regularly. A good one here in Las Vegas is at the Summerlin Art Group. What I learn from life drawing can be infuse into the photo images.

1. Parks

Outdoors has always been a favorite of mine. And parks tops my outdoor list. Spring Mountain State Park is 30 minutes from Las Vegas, with trails, trees and historic buildings, it’s a great pick.

Painting at Spring Mountain Ranch by Diane Eugster
My Painting from a photo at Spring Mountain Park

Many home developers have common area parks with stone bridges, water features etc. If there isn’t a gate, why not use the scenery in your own photos?

Local parks are another great choice. Sometimes this is a good alternative if your model doesn’t know you very well and would feel more comfortable meeting at a public place for your photo shoot.

2. Home

There’s no place like home – in the next few days, walk around inside your home with an eye for painting scenarios. Think small, it only takes a corner of a room with the light streaming in to make some drama. Your couch looking a little tired?, throw a quilt on it for a different painterly effect? It might be surprising the special areas in your home that would lend themselves to scenes.

3. Your Backyard

We have desert landscaping, with some vines growing on the stucco walls. The photo below looks like a garden, but it’s just staged in a small pocket of greenery

My photo
My photo
Painting in my backyard by Diane Eugster
My Painting

3. Borrow a Backyard

That’s right you might have a friend or relative with a green thumb, they would probably be flattered that you wanted to use their yard in one of your paintings.

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My Mother-in-laws Garden

4. Your Model’s Home

The great thing about this is, being in their own home, your model is more likely to be relaxed, a relaxed model is a good model. You may discover things there that you never dreamed of putting in a painting before. The Model below had some fabulous tapestries in her home –

photo by Diane Eugster
The photo in front of one of her tapestries

My next post we’ll talk about how I get myself and the model ready for a shoot-

How to Make Your Friends into Your Models

The other day someone asked me how I find the models for my paintings and photograph them? Over the years I’ve found what works best for me and thought I would share this process in next several blog post.

Finding Models, the most extraordinary people can be found in the most ordinary places.

This young woman was the hair stylist where I use to get my hair cut…

Ange1
The Photo
DreamRedlres
The Painting

In most cities, on-line you can find Meetup groups. Look for photography sessions that you can get in on. I joined a one night photo shoot, this was one of the models –

Ali
The Model Photo
The Painting
The Painting

Places I’ve found “models” are, the gym, neighbors, the clerk at the grocery store, co-workers and family of co-workers. While at a Christmas get together for my husband John’s work, a fellow teacher introduced me to his daughter, which I knew would make a striking model.

Ky
The Photo
Stormy
The Painting

How about yourself? I’ve posed for many of my paintings with the help of a timer and tripod.

I posed for this, who would know?
I posed for this, who would know?

Renaissance Fairs are one of my favorite place, I don’t need to ask, everyone expects to be photographed.

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Age of Chivalry Painting

I’ve found some great and willing subjects at the a local horse riding stable, Cowboy Trail Rides.

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It might seem kind of awkward at first, to ask someone to be your model, but many people are surprisingly willing. It’s easier if you already know the person and they have some knowledge of your artistic pursuits. But even on the spot, like the cowboy above, many people get a kick out of being photographed. Give it a try!

In the next post I’ll cover how I prepare them and choose a location-

 

 

 

Color Choices

nickblog1This photo I took of a neighbor girl had a lot of things going for it, but color wasn’t one of them. Color is a very personal thing, and personally this was too dark and dull for the youthful quality I wanted in my painting .

I decided to exercise my artistic license and make new color choices by replacing the existing colors with corals, pinks and pale green tones.

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On to the value sketches, I soon realize a high key value pattern would work best, I will work with the one on the right.
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A couple quick color studies helped guide me in the right direction. I’m always drawn to cool color schemes so I needed to get the one on the left out of the way, to say to myself, “I told you this wouldn’t work”. The one on the right will be very helpful in finding my way.
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Getting the block in finished, I’m happy with how things are coming along. This is the time I like to spend a day with the painting visible to me while I do other things, so that I can better judge what I need to do.
After a day I can see the shadow in the upper right is too dark, also the red is too intense and draws attention away from the main focus. More refining and I’ve arrived at the core of what I wanted the image to say.
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What a Difference a Museum Makes

Over the weekend my husband John and I, had the opportunity to visit the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena California

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Women Ironing, 1884, Edgar Degas

What struck me was the large collection of Edgar Dégas oil and pastel paintings there.

 It was interesting to get up close and personal with those paintings, really look into all the wonderful layering of color on color on color, the end result being indescribably beautiful.
When I got home, the goal on my next painting was to layer some intense, unexpected colors together and just see what would happen.
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 I started with some simple color studies just to get a feeling of what direction I wanted to take, then I did my “predictable beginning” , just starting with any color to block the masses in and get something started.
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Then I had some fun, seeing what paint would do. I was tempted to use burnt umber and sienna for the warm brown background but I reminded myself the point was to use bright color to achieve muted tones and shades, so I chose Cadmium Red light, Cadmium Orange and Viridian. I used the same mixture for the hair, plus white for the skin tones. I did sneak in Naples Yellow and Ivory Black in smaller amounts.
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I’ve painted this model before and I’ve always been bored with the outcome. But this time, not being concerned with the things, i.e. a dress, a chair a fold in the backdrop, but how “the things” existed as shapes in space, how one shape reacted to the shape next to it. I was much happier with the results .
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