Visitors often ask me, “Do you paint from pictures?” Yes, I often do use photographs as references for my paintings. And I almost always use photos I’ve taken myself.
However, inspiration comes in many forms.
When I’m the passenger in a vehicle, I’ll study the way light and shadows interact with the scenery I’m passing. I look at the way the sun catches trees and pine needles. I’ll note the time of day and the quality of light. Does the sun make everything look warm and golden or do things look crisp and bright? What is the season? Is there snow and ice adding another dimension to forms?
I recall one moonlit ride many years ago. I was fascinated by the full moon’s glow on the snow and giant icicles hanging from the huge rock outcroppings along the highway. I would look at a spot ahead of us and follow it by swiveling my head until it wasn’t visible behind us. My husband finally had to ask what the heck was I looking at!
Although I had no photos from that evening, I later painted the scene from memory and added footprints in the snow.
When I do use a photo, I consider it inspiration and not something to be copied. After all, I already have the photograph!
Sometimes, I see a photo by another photographer that inspires me. Usually, such images linger in my mind. When I find that I can’t stop thinking about them, I will request permission to use the photo as an inspiration.
This happened with my newest painting, “Launched.” My friend and fabulous wildlife photographer, Wendy Wetherbee, allowed me to use her bluebird photo. She told me that it “wasn’t a great photo.” But the sense of movement made it perfect for me. (See Wendy’s art here. )
The blur of blue wings spoke to me on an early spring day.
I was inspired.