Denver Watercolor Class Teacher Dennis Pendleton

Photographic Deception


Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. This is a painting that I did from a photo and it gives me the opportunity to talk about what an artist should consider when working from photo's. First, the camera puts everything in sharp focus and that is not the way the human eye works. When we are looking at something, in this case the dilapidated barn, things in our peripheral vision are not in sharp focus. It is the artist's job to decide what to emphasize and what to play down when painting from a photo. In this case, I painted the background trees and the foreground grasses with mostly soft edges so that the barn holds your attention. This is not to say that other parts of the painting are not important, of course they are, but now the barn remains the most important. This can be very subtle but, trust me, it makes a big difference in how people look at your paintings. Also, in the original photo, there is a large bush at the lower right corner of the barn which draws too much attention. I played it down with less detail and values that lessen its importance.

Camera's rarely show the colors in cast shadows the way they look in real life so I painted the cast shadow to the left of the barn with darker versions of the grass colors. It is the artist's responsibility to keep things like this in mind and make appropriate changes so that their paintings are truly their own rather that just copies of photo's.

There are several things that I really like about this composition. The dark sky opens into a light area right above the barn creating drama in the weather and the old barn, in its nostalgic way, also adds to that drama. For the sky, I used a dark mixture of burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, and mineral violet and left unpainted white paper for the light area. The roof of the barn was interesting because it was a subtle mixture of warm and cool. I used venetian red, alizarin crimson, and mineral violet. The warm foreground grasses were painted with yellow ochre, transparent yellow and burnt sienna and the distant trees are a mixture of olive green, and perylene green with lemon yellow glazed over for the lighter areas.

The camera is a valuable tool for artists but they still need to include their own ideas, feelings, personality, and imagination in their work. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton

Watercolor Artist's Blog by Dennis Pendleton

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