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.

photo for  painting
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.

cowboy1

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.
Simple-final-lr

 

 

 

Paintings That Inspire Us

I saw this painting the other day by artist Mark Tennant, this visual image really excites me and makes me want to paint –

Mark Tennant painting

When I see something like this, I want to take a little bit of the magic and infuse it into my own painting, not copying, just harnessing some of the excitement for myself.

First I need to figure out what it is about this painting, out of all the thousands of paintings out there that grabbed me, really pulled me in. I could use words like beautiful, haunting, moody…which are all true, but don’t help me with my painting. If I instead think more along the lines of what he did with paint and design, I’ve got a tangible aspect to my inspiration.
  • The color it’s held to a bare minimum which makes all the wonderful texture really sing.
  • The Texture it’s not the kind of texture you’d expect to see, like the shine of glass or the reflection of a metal object, but broken paint areas within the skin tones and dress.
  •  Interpretation I try to imagine what the original subject looked like, and observe how Mark took it into his own fabulous world.
  • The Shapes, the large  textural shapes of the background are infused with the same muted tones as the girl, making everything come together in a wonderfully cohesive vision. Mark is given us so much entertainment in his varied shapes and staccato textures that you don’t miss not knowing what the objects are. Only a piece of white cloth in the upper left-hand corner is recognizable, but even that is used as a design element, pointing downwards towards the girls face.
  • Subject The super relaxed pose of the girl with her hair trailing downward echoes the loose paint handling which creates a wonderful unity of the pieces to the whole.

My challenge to you today… find an artist’s painting that inspires you to paint, how did that artist handle paint and use design to excite you, and take away a little of the magic for yourself.

Visit Mark Tennant’s website to view more of his fabulous work.

 

Painting Small Faces

The problem with painting small faces from photos-

Small-head-lowres

Here is the photo I am working from-

The first problem is what I think I can do- just dash a few spots and magic, I have a face. Nine times out of ten this does not work. Then I realize I really don’t know what’s going on with that head, is it tilting slightly upward or downward turning left or right, how is it attached to the neck?
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Here’s a painting I’ve started with a small face. Maybe you can sense already the struggle I’ve had with that little face.  This is when I know I need to grab a sketchpad look at that face do a sketch of what is really
happening.
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What I know now is her head is slightly tilted to one side also tilted slightly upward because I can see the bottom of her nose and a little bit of the bottom of her chin.
Also where the ears are on the side of the head always are a good clue. If they line up with the tip of the nose the head is level if they’re below the nose than the head is tilted back if they’re above the nose then the head is tilted forward.
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It’s starting  to go in the right direction,  onto the next challenge….

New Painting –

blog1Going over the reference photos I have from previous shoots, I kept coming back to this one. It has many of the things I like in a subject, a reflective mood and a simple composition with movement, but like many photos, it has it’s problems or areas of concern.

blog1aOne is the left arm, the way it follows the bend of the picture at the lower corner makes a tangent that pulls my eye to the corner in an uncomfortable way. So I will have to deal with that arm, how, I don’t know right now. The background doesn’t add anything to the scene so I’m going to simplify it, making the pyramid shape of the girl even more obvious.

blog2Using a limited palette of yellow ochre, cad red light, cad red medium and ivory black I start roughing the image in, not going any further on the face until I’m sure it is where I want it. There’s nothing worse than spending a long time on an area only to find out it needs to be totally wiped out because it’s in the wrong place. In a painting like this I’m not sure what the colors will be, so I’m going to follow what I see in the subject until a direction is obvious to me, right now it’s warm gold flesh with warm greens.

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By this time a color shift toward violet is happening, and I’m starting to get a feel for what I’m going to do with that left arm, having it straight is a much better lead in, it just flows better. Her dress is going to get fuller and cover the legs, which were adding too many lines going in directions that kept the movement from being fluid.

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Adjustments here and there and it’s done. Always helps to get away from the painting for a couple days before the final work.

Sorolla Art Exhibition

Evening Sun, Sorolla de Bastida 1903
Evening Sun, Jouquin Sorolla 1903

 

My husband John and I have just returned from one of the most inspirational art exhibitions I’ve seen in years, Sorolla And America at the San Diego Museum of Art.

Having long admired Joaquin Sorolla’s loose paint handling and brilliant portrayal of light effects we wanted to be sure not to miss this great opportunity to see his work in person.

Sad Inheritance by Jouquin Sorolla
Sad Inheritance by Joaquin Sorolla

The first painting in the show was a massive 10′ x 15′ canvas titled Sad Inheritance. A black cloaked monk slightly bending forward to help a crippled young man with crutches make careful steps into the sparkling sea water. Other children play in the distant waves, while some struggle at the waters edge, a very emotional painting which won him numerous awards.

Benito Perez Galdos, Juaquin Sorolla 1905
Benito Perez Galdos, Joaquin Sorolla 1905

When he became well known he received so many portrait commissions that he had a hard time keeping up with them.

He was a very prolific painter, producing thousand of paintings and sketches in his lifetime.

Bacchante Sorolla y Bastida 1886
Bacchante Sorolla y Bastida 1886

 

Everyones favorites of course where the beach scenes of playful children juxtaposed with weathered fisherman and lumbering oxen bringing the fishing boats ashore.

The photos in art books just can’t convey the grandeur of standing in front of one of his large canvases, knowing that he painted most of them plein air, on location.

Children on the Beach, Jouquin Sorolla 1916
Children on the Beach, Joaquin Sorolla 1916

 

Some of these paintings were in the San Diego show, some where from other collections. A great site to see more of his work is The Athenaeum. 

A new painting – Nuns at the Fountain

This image of two nuns in front of a fountain getting water was one I wanted to paint from the photos we took while in Italy this summer.

When faced with something like that sculpted fountain, things can get confusing, darks, lights swirling shapes… the best solution for me is to paint most of the picture upside down.

Turning the photo this way helps me to direct my brain to just see shapes of value and color instead of objects. This makes my process fun, because I am free to “play with paint” and not get hung up of “what things are”. The best part is when you turn the painting right side up, the image of the “things” appear like magic.

Before I started on this I had some minor adjustments to the composition, below is the original photo –

photo of nuns at the fountainLook at the long horizontal light shape behind the two nuns. See how each nun plus the water fountain all are dark shapes that break into the light. Look at evenly those shapes fall- light space nun, light space, nun, light space water fountain, light space. It’s a little boring and would be helped greatly by just moving the left nun closer to the other one, and the whole group closer to the right side of the picture. Here’s my value sketch below, the first one is how it appears in the photo, the second, how I am going to regroup things-

sketchHere is the almost finished painting-

blog-picAt this point I like to get away from the painting for several days, than see if anything needs adjustment. Coming back to the image I am having a feeling that something is wrong with the light on the left side of the image, running down the sun struck side. So I start asking myself questions;

  • Is the shape reasonably accurate? (I say reasonably accurate, because being a slave to the image is not really important to me). My answer yes
  • Is the shape the right temperature compared with the rest of the painting? yes
  • Is it throwing the composition off? Bingo – yes, my eye keeps getting pulled over there, I want to look at the nuns but that area of high contrast is fighting for my attention.

So this is a good reason to venture away from the original. I always say a painting is not the live image, it’s not the photograph, it is an entity all its own. Toning that area down a notch was what was needed to complete the painting, below

Nuns at the Fountain

 

 

 

 

Ahh…Simplicity

Over the years I’ve found that less is better, simple is stronger.

One of the ways I’ve simplified my own way of painting is to cut down on the number of brushes I use. Just a few large brushes, (1″ or so), has really made painting more interesting for me. This improves my outcome by:

  • having a less cluttered work space
  • no more wasting time looking for which brush I had just used for an area in a painting
  • increasing the loose quality of my work
  • and spending less time cleaning brushes

One person I’ve come across, who has a wonderful touch with a large brush, is Australian artist Colley Whisson. Below is a link to one of his many YouTube demonstrations