Welcome the Unexpected

Spending weeks gathering inspirations before a photo shoot is a regular part of my process.

For this particular session I came across an image on a site about french farmhouse design that inspired me. The soft vertical lines of the girl’s apron as they descended downward toward the rounded shapes of yarn was intriguing.

Screen Shot 2015-12-19 at 12.26.45 PM

I considered the possibilities of this scene – eggs could replace the yarn…hmmm. After purchasing a dozen brown eggs the next step was to boil them, it wouldn’t be fun if they cracked while we were trying to get the picture.

The day of the shoot my model, Harley, looked wonderfully earthy in her dress and linen apron. Then the eggs……eggs weight a lot more than yarn. Gravity was not our friend as we angled and lifted, but it wasn’t working. Forget the eggs.

Next the wind, didn’t plan on that, what’s next…..? Holding the apron from flying in her face, we were both laughing by now, and….snap….that’s the painting, didn’t expect it, but thank you nature for the unexpected!

Swept Away by Diane Eugster
Swept Away by Diane Eugster

 

Jet Lag is Fading – Time to Paint

John and I returned to Las Vegas from our trip to the historic east coast last night. The jet lag is fading and we’re finally getting up to speed.

Did I find the painting inspiration I hoped for…..yes and more!

Beginning with a tour of Washington D.C., the Freer Gallery was a wonderful stop. The Whistler Peacock Room was deconstructed in London and transported to the gallery.

"The Peacock room" by Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur
“The Peacock room” photo by Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur

It was a fascinating feeling to stand in this room which Whistler painted and redecorated in 1876 resulting in the owners disapproving shock, unpaid for the massive project Whistler filed for bankruptcy.

A John Singer Sargent painting “The Loggia” was a joy to view up close. Look at how simply he dashed in that head and hands.

The Loggia by John Singer Sargent
The Loggia by John Singer Sargent
Detail of the Loggia by John Singer Sargent
Detail of the Loggia by John Singer Sargent

More of his work can be found online here.

On to Colonial Williamsburg. We just couldn’t get enough of this authentic city which was founded as the capital of the Virginia Colony in 1699. The fascinating thing to me was that the people weren’t just costumed actors but functioning 17th century tradesmen filling orders for handmade furniture, hand sewn clothing etc.

It was truly a beautiful place to learn as well as just walk around the gravel pathways to see what  could be discovered. Just a few of the hundreds of pics I took there are below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Time to start painting, but where do I start?

Testing the 50mm lens on the Landscape

Last week I did more research online to find out if the 50mm lens was useful for more than just shooting indoors with low light.  I found out that it also has some great advantages for outdoor landscape photos.

To wrap my head around this I practiced in my backyard.

50ForLandscape

For both of these photos I stood in exactly the same location, ISO 100, shutter priority mode 125. In both I focused on the low tree in the middle.

The one with the zoom lens (that came with the camera) is flatter, has duller color and shadows. The 50mm lens photo doesn’t take in as wide an image, but has much more life to it.

The sun is shinning, the sky is clear and I’m ready to take my new 50mm 1.4 lens out to Red Rock and see how it performs. John and I got on our hiking boots , got in the truck and headed for the mountains.

blogRR1

Our desert can be rather dry and flat, but hike 10 minutes up a trail and the beauty starts to unfold.

IMG_3372

I like the way the 50mm allows focusing on a near object, while softening the background, more like I see things with my own eyes.

 

IMG_3344

This photo, focusing in the distance, allowed the foreground to soften. Next week another trail….

New Painting- It’s all about the Sun

OvertheWallLRThis is the painting I finished yesterday from the shoot with Harley.

What I wanted to showcase was the warmth of the day. You might think that a painting that is mostly blue and green would be about coolness, but this dominantly cool situation highlights the warm passages, making them the focus.

 

Yes! A Better Photo Shoot

I showed up at Ed’s studio at 9:30 with my bag of scarfs and gloves, clothes on hangers, cameras (always have a spare in case of a malfunction) and new 50mm lens. We pinned fabric curtains in the window,  moved chairs around and talked about potential poses before Harley arrived.

Harley , who is truly wonderful, was our model today. Always on time, upbeat personality, easy to work with, beautiful, what more could you want?

After experimenting on my cat and dog I was anxious to try out my new camera lens on a real person. After the first few photos, with some adjustments, I could see the images on my camera were nice and sharp in limited light, much better than my old zoom lens.

Both of these photo were taken using available window light, one facing south and the other west.

It’s always fun working with another artist, the collaboration of ideas expands the potential to get great shots exponentially.

Now to get the images off the card and start painting-

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.

greenapp
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!

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.

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 5.29.31 PM
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.

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 5.43.09 PM
Canon Digital Rebel XT

 

 

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

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 6.57.54 PM

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

bucket
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!

IMG_2321

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.

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 7.21.46 PM

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-

steph
photo with no tripod

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

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-