Seeing Photos In A New Way

I’m fascinated by the changes that we, as artists, undergo as we keep on our artistic journey. We continually discover new things. Lately, I feel something new is happening with regard to using photos.

Like most people I started out years ago trying to copy photos. A successful painting was one that looked like the photo. Over time I learned that it’s OK to move things around, eliminate things, and add things if it makes it a better painting.

As the journey continues I have learned that there are more changes that I can make. New ways that can make the painting even more personal. It’s about seeing the photo as a means to express myself. What do I want to say with this subject? It’s about me painting what excites me and feeling free to manipulate everything to that end.

Putting The Principle Into Action

This photo is a case in point. I’ve always liked the pattern of darks and lights as well as the overall composition. I took this photo 3 years ago but recently I decided that I wanted to try to paint it.

Rex Beanland, The LRT (Light Rapid Transit, Calgary)
The LRT (Light Rapid Transit, Calgary)

This is my first value sketch that I did in preparation for doing a small painting. What jumped out at me when I looked at it was that it’s so totally literal. I tried to capture that complicated structure over the train with all the detail I see. I also got caught up in much of the background detail.

Rex Beanland, The LRT, First Go, watercolour, 7 x 6
The LRT, First Go

Then I asked myself what excited me about this painting. It was the contrast between the structure and the light of the train. This little study captured that so much more effectively.

Rex Beanland, LRT Lively, 5 x 4
LRT Lively

Putting these ideas together in a little more refined study I came up with this.

Rex Beanland, LRT, Calgary, watercolour, 10 x 15
LRT, Calgary

Another Example

Another related example is this photo I took of the ATB building on 8th Ave. This building has some fairly interesting architectural features such as a dome and even though I don’t find the composition interesting I thought there was some potential and I would give it a shot.

For me the struggle was to see this building not as the subject but as a backdrop to tell an interesting story.

Rex Beanland, ATB Study, watercolour, 8 x 9
ATB Study

This is a small 8″ x 9″ study does that for me. The building is a supporting player to the main story of the people.

As I mentioned at the top of this post I’m just noticing that this ability to take a photo and create something personal and meaningful is starting to happen more and more. I can’t help but notice that at the same time I’m becoming increasingly excited by painting. Go figure!

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