Originial Painting Using Photo Reference


Last summer a client commissioned me to create an original painting featuring her house and flower gardens. Here are the steps I use to create a painting with specific subject matter.
1. Establish the best source of light. In this case late evening light was best.

2. Photograph the subject from different angles during the best light. I took dozens of photos over a period of several days.

3. Select elements to include in the composition that add life or personalization. This client spends hours every day tending the gardens, so I included a likeness of her image as she tended her plants to create a sense of warmth in the scene.

4. Photograph the added elements in the same light as the main subject. This is a detail that many artists miss, making the finished work seem unnatural or awkward.

5. Do close up photography of details to use as reference. I have thousands of photos of different varieties of flowers that I can use to create a garden of any kind. For this commission I focused on the flowers that my client cultivated, and took close ups of them for reference.

6. Do not faithfully copy the photographic reference, instead select elements to emphasize in the composition that will tell the story. In this case I chose to make the circle garden in the center of the paved driveway dominate the composition. This painting is all about flower gardens, not about the house. The house is secondary to the composition.

7. Create several rough “thumbnails” of the proposed composition before selecting the final version.

8. Once the sketch is complete consult with the client and make changes at this stage. My client was completely satisfied with the sketch so I began the process of painting in pointillism immediately. I started at the top of the picture plane and worked down, but I never follow a pattern. Since the house and background are secondary to the focus of this composition, I wanted to establish their values first and grey them so that the flower garden will dominate.

More tomorrow,

Gail Niebrugge, Pointillism Artist

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