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Katharine (katharinetrauger.wordpress.com) commented on my picture of “Nella Chiesa” and asked (in jest) which way the window faced and what time of day it was, which reminded me about my previous post, “Moving the Sun.” Being an artist, I can change the direction of the shadows or the quality of the light to enhance my subject. I also use a compact camera, despite the salesman’s assurances that I would like a DSLR better because the quality of pictures is so much greater. I want a camera that I will carry with me a lot, and, actually, I don’t want perfect pictures. If I take a fantastic photo, then it should stay a photo. I use photos as references when I can improve the scene or use different colors to enhance the mood or make the scene say something more than is in the photo.
For example, here is my painting of the Duomo (cathedral) in Gubbio, Italy.
My reference photo is here:
I have brightened the interior and put in colors which don’t appear in the photo. A value study helps with this, as I paint from the study and therefore am not as subject to the tyranny of the scene as when looking at a photo.
And, Katharine, I think the window faces east-southeast and it was late morning.
Hope can be defined as looking forward to someone or something with desire and confidence, or a person or thing in which these expectations are centered. Since we are sailors, a lighthouse seems an appropriate expression of hope – the safe arrival into the harbor and the avoidance of danger on the rocks.
This is North Head Lighthouse at Cape Disappointment, WA at the mouth of the Columbia River. My son was stationed there while in the Coast Guard, and often went out to rescue boats that had gone awry in the treacherous waters created by the outflow of the river over a shifting sand bar.
Guest Blogger: My Husband Rick
It’s all about the light. No, it’s all about the lens. No, that’s not right either… It’s all about the resolution, and the image sensor, and the – Well, it’s actually all about all these things. So here’s a summary of what I’ve learned, and a couple of examples.
Light: Isn’t it great when the experts are really right? What I’ve been reading is that natural light really can’t be beat for rendering true color. My experience bears this out. Natural light – indirect light, that is – renders the colors on camera most accurately.
Lens: The lens must be able to gather as much of this light as possible, so a lens with a larger aperture is going to give you more accurate color, focus, and greater resolution. Keeping away from the limits of the lens is a good idea too (wide-open with an f-1.8 lens may introduce aberrations in color, texture, and focus so back up an f-stop or two).
Resolution: Image file formats are critical to sharpness and rendering. I used the deepest resolution the camera would allow. For digital single lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) that will be RAW format, which adds no compression and captures the richest image. You just can’t believe the difference until you compare them side-by-side. Due to space limitations here, I won’t post a RAW image file, but the difference is profound.
Image Sensor: All DSLRs are going to have a great image sensor these days. Compared to the days of film processing, digital image quality has gone to the moon, while film is in a low-earth orbit. Where you will see more substantive differences is in sensor size. If you are using a point-and-shoot, the sensor is going to be necessarily smaller than in a DSLR, even if it boasts a big megapixel image. Point-and-shoot cameras are great and convenient, but limited by lens and sensor size and control features.
Compare these images: the first is taken with our high-quality Sony point-and-shoot in artificial light (tungsten) and heavily edited to sharpen and approach color accuracy. The original image was a JPEG. The second is taken with our Nikon D3100 (DSLR) with its f-1.8 lens in natural light. There was no color correction or sharpening applied. The original image was a RAW file (12 megabytes), resized and compressed to JPEG for web viewing (we will use the larger image files for reproduction sales on Fine Art America)
As you can see, the difference is marked. I simply couldn’t render the colors accurately with the small camera. No light source, no amount of editing would do.
Many thanks to the experts whose articles I read and reread (and reread!).
1. J. R. Compton in http://www.dallasartsrevue.com/resources/How-to-Photo-Art.shtml
2. Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_noise
3. Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposure_(photography)
4. Neil Creek “Photography 101.4 – Exposure and Stops” http://www.digital-photography-school.com/photography-1014-exposure-and-stops
5. Vincent Bockaert “White Balance” http://www.dpreview.com/learn/?/Glossary/Digital_Imaging/White_Balance_01.htm
5. dpreview.com articles on barrel and pincushion distortion
6. Ken Rockwell at http://www.kenrockwell.com/
After a boisterous weekend celebrating my father’s 80th birthday with twenty of his relatives, a weekend full of non-stop puns and eating interrupted by games (the eating, not the puns), I got back to work yesterday, and today finished the painting from last week’s value study.
My goals were:
1.) to make the eggs the focal point without letting the chicken, with its bright red comb and wattle, upstage the eggs. I think I accomplished this by putting the chicken in front of the bowl, also painted with red.
2.) to leave a section of the painting unfinished and suggestive, which I did in the lower left hand corner.
3.) to use a monochromatic color scheme, which didn’t happen. I added Winsor green to the cadmium red to get a dark and then liked having the two colors together, complementing each other and making a greater contrast. So I have a complementary color scheme.
This picture hangs in my father’s and step-mother’s kitchen, which is appropriate since I painted it while staying at their summer house (which has now become their retirement home). I was taking my first watercolor class with Gwen Bragg and our assignment was to paint eggs to learn how to paint subtle colors. Most of the class painted white eggs, but my step-mother had only brown eggs in the refrigerator.
This small piece won an award in the student show.
As I wrote last week, I am taking a class and the first two sessions are concentrating on painting white objects. The set up I chose was white ceramic chickens with a glass bowl of white eggs. My finished exercise looks like this:
I’m not unhappy with the result, but as I have thought about it this week, I have realized that I succumbed to the tyranny of the scene in front of me. That was not the picture that I wanted to paint! But what did I have in mind?
I want the eggs to be the focal point, and I want to challenge myself to put in the chicken with its red comb and wattle without letting it upstage the eggs. I also want to leave a section of the painting unfinished, or suggestive.
So today I worked on my plan. I started out by drawing the eggs and the chicken. They were beside one another in the set up and in my drawing, until I realized that I wanted the chicken to overlap the bowl. So I folded the paper until the chicken’s beak was in front of the bowl.
That was better, but still not what I wanted. However, I found that I do want to use cadmium red for all the elements of the painting, a monochromatic color scheme. Mixing Winsor green with the cadmium red makes a very dark value to put behind the eggs.
So here is a value study:
I think I like it, and will think about it over the weekend. Painting is going to have to wait until next week because this weekend is my father’s 80th birthday and there will be a lot of family in town.
Usually when I begin a painting, I start with a value study, shapes in black and white and shades of gray. In one lesson that Gwen taught we took this a step further using a homemade paint recipe for the color “Payne’s Gray” (ultramarine blue, burnt umber, and raw sienna). The areas in which the light was warm (sunlight, reflected light) received a warmer version of this color combination and the cooler areas received a bluer version. I used a photo of a house and the study turned out like this:
The next step was to then paint from the value study, without looking at the original photo. We were encouraged to pick three colors, a red, a blue, and a yellow, and limit ourselves to those three pigments. We could use a realistic rendering or use “broken color,” where pigments are dropped in and mixed together in the shapes. I tried the broken color scheme for this house. As I was painting, I didn’t like how the painting was turning out because of all the fairy castle colors – until I got the values dark enough. Then all of a sudden it clicked and looked right, even though the colors were imaginary.
It all served to teach me the truth of one of Gwen’s teaching maxims:
Color gets all the credit, but value does all the work.
Guest Blogger – My Husband Rick:
I’m back with a progress report, and a couple of examples. Learning how to photograph art has taken a lot of reading and experimenting. I have spent hours and hours studying the camera manual, reading reviews, reading blogs about photography and photographing art. Then more hours experimenting with different settings, different light sources, optimizing the variables for the truest color. Hours well spent, because the results are finally coming in, as illustrated below.
This first photo was taken Saturday, and is the best color reproduction I could manage at that point.
I was using halogen bulbs in the lamps, and I’m embarrassed to say that the camera was on fully automatic mode. It decided that ISO 400, f-4, at 1/50 was optimal. This is also with the white balance set automatically.
I started with these settings as a reference and made many changes in manual mode to improve color. However, Ruth and I concluded that my best attempt… was this automatically rendered photo. Clearly, I had more to learn.
After reading a lot, with numerous ‘aha’ moments, I returned to the studio with new ideas, and came up with this:
Here are the differences Ruth and I see: The green-blue field in the upper right corner has a good bit of green in it now instead of mostly blue, and the coffee cup is more tawny, or tan with red highlights – these are much closer to the appearance of her painting. This also preserves the compositional logic of the original painting, as the green corner resonates in the cup handle, the right side of the rim, and the cup handle’s reflection in the coffee pot.
I changed the lamp bulbs to “Reveal” clear (now tungsten vs halogen), and again began in automatic mode to get the camera settings in the ball park. I then switched to manual and moved the f-stop smaller one stop to f-5, and set the ISO to a slower sensitivity of 200. This allowed me to slow the shutter down to 1/40. The reason for doing this was to get the lens out of its wide-open position, and actually over-expose the image. The painting is fairly dark and to bring off a truer appearance I needed to keep the imaging darker than the automatic settings would allow.
Now, if I could just manage to label the images with a copyright notice in the same format…
I travelled to Italy a couple of years ago with my Italian class. We stayed in our teacher’s hometown in Umbria and took day trips to some of the picturesque hill towns near Perugia. This watercolor painting is of the duomo (cathedral) in Gubbio, which was built late in the 12th century.
Although the towns are small and crowded, the markets and cafes are noisy and busy, and Italians like being closer together than Americans, the churches are havens of peace and rest, and are treated with much respect.
I have glazed on more color, continuing to draw out the figures from the splashes of color. I found that I was getting confused about the lights and darks with the gray masking fluid still in place, so I have now rubbed out the mask and will be able to see where I should be going when I work on it next. (The picture is 15″ x 19″.)
I started a class at the Torpedo Factory, taught by Gwen Bragg. ( Gwen is a wonderful artist and a good teacher. There is a link to her website on the side bar.) The emphasis for this week is painting white objects and metal objects on white backdrops. The white on white is preparation for doing snow scenes. I chose the set up with eggs in a glass bowl, a metal cup, and ceramic chickens. There were also flowers and egg beaters and other objects in the set up, but I left those out. Here is my rendition. I’m thinking of titling it “Which came first…” but am open to other suggestions.