Sunset Photo Reference for Artist Gail Niebrugge
As a child I became the official family photographer and carried the big 6″ square black box camera with me whenever I could, documenting events and vacations on black and white film. I kept albums where the deckled edged photos were mounted with black triangle corners on heavy black paper. Copious notes, titles and comments were entered in white pencil with large flourished capital letters. These albums still occupy a storage trunk in my home today. Today, how things have changed. Last night one of the most colorful sunsets of the year dominated our view of the lake from the studio, and I shot a number of digital photos, downloaded the chip into my computer and posted one of my favorites on my Blog all within 10 minutes! The camera has been an invaluable tool for me as an artist throughout my career, and my photo reference file is huge. Whenever I begin to build a composition for a painting I refer to my past references. Best of all today photos are in exact color, this intense and brilliant this sunset needed no enhancement, nature supplied the perfect colors. To use as a reference my photos do not have to be perfect, or high quality and can have a telephone pole in the middle if that is the only way I can shoot a scene. I know what I need when looking through reference material in the future as I plan paintings. Perhaps it is a cloud formation, or the look of the tundra after the leaves are gone, or what kind of wildflower blooms in a marsh? Photos are mostly used to collaborate the accuracy of the subject, not as as substitute for artists design, composition, and sketching a layout. Artists need to be careful to not depend on photos as a crutch in place of good drawing and an understanding of perspective, but use them only for additional information.