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

Salon Show 2021 Salon Show
The Salon Show will be hosted by Quinlan Visual Arts Center, located in Gainesville, Georgia, June 10 through August 7, 2021 Learn More!
OPA Summer 2021 Online Showcase OPA Summer 2021 Online Showcase
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2021 National Convention & Wet Paint Competition 2021 National Convention & Wet Paint Competition
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Eastern Regional Exhibition 2021 Eastern Regional Exhibition
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Western Regional Exhibition 2021 Western Regional Exhibition
The Western Regional Exhibition will be held October 15 through November 27, 2021 at the Mary R. Koch Arts Center (Mark Arts), located in Wichita, Kansas. More details to be announced as they become available. Learn More!