Some Thoughts About Using Photography

This year I was asked what my thoughts are about painting from photographs and if this is a practice I use.

There is much I can write about, and I will start with……. Yes, I paint from photographs.
But the painting does not look like the photograph,  yet, there is no painting without the photograph. So what’s happening?

I think the photographs touch something inside of me,  which awakens and inspires me…

Usually, when painting from a photo or my monitor, it is in the studio and with oils. I set up the image(s) the night before, then sleep on it, and I’m ready to start the next morning.

I would like to say more about myself and photography:

I started studying painting when I was 20 at the Art Students League with the late Frank Mason.

Back then the rage in New York City was Abstract Expressionism. Realism was considered dead by the intelligent ones. You were actually considered stupid to want to paint realistically, “don’t you realize it has already been done?” At that time painting realistically was limited and very different from today.

Among us young artists who wanted to paint realistically, we had a false notion which I swallowed completely …. “if you work from a photo you were an illustrator (God forbid), and if you worked from real life you were considered a fine artist, yay!”

For my first 20 years of painting which was in the studio and out on location, I never considered using a photo.

When I returned from Europe I started using black and white photography as I got involved painting Mexican and Guatemalan marketplaces. That was during an eight-month visit to San Miguel de Allende and afterward.


Woodstock, NY (1970-1983)

A few years later I moved to Woodstock. The landscape and the Catskill mountains were breath-taking. Painting on location and exclusively with pastel. Of course, the light would change and be different from when I began, I found I could have painted both light conditions. While taking a short break and viewing other mouth-watering subjects to paint, I felt as if I was a child in a candy store. This caused inner anxiety.

To satisfy my anxiety I started taking slides of subjects I would have painted if I wasn’t already involved. The weather in Woodstock could get nasty. Since taking only slides of something I would have painted if not already committed to a  painting… I found myself in my studio viewing these slides, reliving them, they excited and they inspired me, and I found myself starting to paint from them.

Much to my chagrin, the paintings were beautiful.

This caused a lot of confusion and guilt within me which I struggled with for a good many years till finally getting over it. I now use photography for landscape and find it as a great help for painting my oils in the studio, and my workshop demos.

Upcoming OPA Events

OPA 2019 Western Regional Exhibition 29th Annual National Juried Exhibition
The Twenty-Ninth National Exhibition and Convention will be hosted by RS Hanna Gallery, located in Fredericksburg, Texas, from October 16 - November 28, 2020. Learn More!
OPA Summer 2020 Online Showcase OPA Summer 2020 Online Showcase
The Summer 2020 Online Showcase is from June 5 - August 15, 2020 and will be open to Associate members only. Learn More!
Salon Show 2020 Salon Show
The Salon Show will be held August 13 - October 3, 2020 at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center in Gainesville, GA. Canvas Size: not to exceed 864 square inches. More details to be announced as they become available.
Western Regional Exhibition 2020 Western Regional Exhibition
The Western Regional Exhibition will be held September 4 – October 2, 2020 at the Montgomery Lee Fine Art in Park City, UT. More details to be announced as they become available.
Eastern Regional Exhibition 2020 Eastern Regional Exhibition
The Eastern Regional Exhibition will be November 20 - December 19, 2020 at the Reinert Fine Art Gallery in Charleston, SC. Canvas Size: not to exceed 1,200 square inches. More details to be announced as they become available.