Since I have been working more in the studio I have had to use more secondary reference material, mainly photography. I don’t usually use a whole photo. I tend to use one master reference, often cropped and adjusted for tone, colour, brilliance, contrast and saturation. Then I supplement the main reference with portions of other photos where needed.
That is not where I see the problem for me that lies ahead.
For years now I have been developing into an expressionist rather than impressionist painter.
I am a realist landscape painter but that does not mean illusionist or trompe l’ oeil. One of the challenges of working from photos is to avoid copying the photo. By their nature photos include everything in the visual feild whether or not such details are important or of significance to the artist. The artist selects that which conveys their intention and discards the irrelevant.
To me, one of the most important qualities of a painting is evidence of the gesture, the mark of the hand. Everyone has their distinctive style of handwriting. Equally every mark of the brush is personal to the individual. In the same way that a person’s handwriting is affected by their emotional state, so to is the brushing of the artist
In expressionist painting the response of the artist to the chosen subject is apparent in the nature and quality of the marks made by the hand.
Since I have been working more in the studio I have had to use secondary reference material, mainly photography. To avoid copying I work vigorously and fast attempting to lay in the whole canvas in a single sitting. Following the example of John Singer Sargent I scrape the surface smooth at the end of the session removing unwanted nibs and ridges.
The next session continues in the same way, broadly restating the subject while respecting the surface. When it finally looks finished it is. This may take several sessions over many weeks, but when that moment arrives I step back. No more scraping. What the viewer sees then are the final brushstrokes unmoderated.
My definition of realism in painting includes the physicality of the painted canvas together with the representation of the subject. This means that the subjective response of the viewer can shift at will between the physical fact of the painted surface and the psychic effect of the portrayed subject.
Anyway, that’s what I’m going to be working on this year.