Painting from a photo

Painting from a photo

Here is a wonderful art critique article from the ArtistsNetwork .com Art Articles' section:

Capturing Personality
By Greg Albert

Many artists would be thrilled to achieve the enviable skill level of noslensanera ( ArtistsNetwork.com user name,) displayed (above) in his painting Portrait in Oil. The composition follows traditional classic portraiture conventions, the paint is applied evenly with no visible brushstrokes and details are rendered with precision. Overall, the artist shows a high degree of technical control in what appears to be an almost photographic likeness. In fact, there’s little or nothing obvious to fault in this painting, and the artist could find a good market for this type of realistic portraiture.
Still, the painting raises an important question: how can the artist go beyond this level? The painting appears to be based on a photo, and if that is true, the artist has mastered the skill of creating an accurate rendering of a photo in paint—no mean achievement. The down side is that this skill could easily become an artistic dead end, dooming the artist to similar, derivative results. Why spend hours recreating in paint what a good camera can do in seconds?

The answer to this dilemma is to find ways to make the portrait more personal. A camera, being a machine, is completely impersonal and totally objective. It hides the person behind the lens while bloodlessly recording the likeness of the person in front of the lens. In a sense, the artist has gone missing.

Painting directly from life may not produce the most realistic likeness, but it results in a painting exuding much more personality because the viewer encounters both the sitter and the artist. This confluence of two individuals makes a portrait from life unique and compelling.

Here are some suggestions for artists who want to go beyond photographic realism: Study the work of great portraitists such as Gainsborough or Sargent for inspiration on how to avoid the photo-in-paint look.

Loosen up when applying the paint. Leave visible brushstrokes, especially in the hair, clothing and background.
Experiment with croppings that go beyond the tried-and-true class-photo composition.
Paint from life whenever possible.
Add subtle color to the shadows.
Experiment with lighting to avoid a flat, evenness on the face.
Paint on a more noticeably textured canvas.
Work with larger brushes.
Portrait in Oil is an exquisite painting that points the way to even more personal, revelatory expression.

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Here are some more terrific tips & tricks from the artistnetwork.com forum:

"Hi my name is Lenora and I am very new to painting. I have a small photo of my first granddaughter and I would like to put her photo to canvas, but on a small scall. Can any one give me any suggestions on how I can start this process." Artist At Work

"I think you mean you want to enlarge the photo. You can take it to a copy place, and have them enlarge it. Or you could divide the photo into a 4 or 9 square grid, and draw each portion of the grid on paper yourself. The grid method breaks the photo into manageable pieces to draw. Good luck!!
JOY"
JoyK

"Joy's tips are good ideas. If you get stuck with those try turning the photo and the painting upside-down and try working that way. Your brain works against you at first when you are doing portraits because it looks at your granddaughter and says "oh, thats "lucy"! She looks like this." and you end up drawing what you THINK is there instead of what actually IS there. By turning it upside-down you foil your brain's ability to 'recognize' and put its preconceived ideas onto your subject. This has helped me iron out some awkward looking spots.
Have fun!"
LauraT

"the upside down trick is tried and true....also view the piece by looking in a mirror, its much of the same thing...tricks the brain because it now doesnt recognize it as well, and permits you to draw what you see...
let me first add this too...if your new..you need to be sketching...preliminary sketches are where your brain and hand learn the lines,shadows,contrast and values... values are the darks and lights, no matter if in color or not..contrast is the positioning of darks and lights against each other, normally the highest of highlights might be right next to a darkest dark...learn to make your eyes identify these things...
learn to see things in shapes and patterns...instead of outlines..but definetly do preliminary sketches until you can feel you are close...i do tons of em..depending on how difficult the subject...
another key, if your photo is color? have a greyscale copied as well, if you dont have a printer a copier will do or the local quick print shop or staples can do it...its not expensive..but i use my printer for these things....and just replace my ink cartridges with any commission monies i get in...eh...sometimes i run out of ink before i can reap any commission though so i try to print small, to make it last...~wink~
practice practice practice sketching....no matter how long an artist has been at it? we still practice...and like i said..do prelims..and fill up those sketcbooks!!"
one who sees