"Everybody knows a work of art takes at least an hour!" Lucy to Linus, (Peanuts)

FineArtViews Painting Competition - Twice in the Fav 15%

http://canvoo.com/boldbrush/badge/13203 three times selected for FAV15%, Fine Art Views Bold Brush Painting Competition

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Values and Seeing

Above, blocking in hues and values over underpainting
Below, blending those hues, cleaning up edges

Returning to the current painting I'm working on I realized yet again that unless I work intuitively the results are less than pleasing. Blending that balance of things I've learned, technically, over the years with just allowing my hand to flow almost independently of my thinking is always the biggest challenge. Looking at the photo reference and recalling the
actual presence of the model in front of me helps in seeing those values and hues as more than just tones on photo paper.  An artist whose work I much admire and whose ethic I appreciate also, Sharon Knettell, http://sharonknettell.blogspot.com, writes extensively about working from life rather than photo references and how it is so much more meaningful. I know exactly what she means. I will always prefer to work from life. I will also always end up with some photo reference to work from also...I imagine. Some issues are contentious. We all have our own ideas about what's best. I do draw the line at using someone else's photo reference. I take my own unless there is absolutely no way around it. Like a commission to paint the portrait of someone deceased. Or including some exotic animal or plant I have no way of ever seeing in the flesh. When I was a commercial illustrator, and before the advent of the internet, I had compiled, starting at age 14, a huge reference file (known as a "morgue") which I added to constantly, cutting up magazines and garnering photocopies from library files. I had to do this since the deadlines were inhuman often and I had no time to dither with the ethics of finding the "source" to work from in life. I learned also how to use my camera as sketching tool and it served me well. Everyone and everything was potential model material!  (Ask my son).
Now that I paint mostly for myself and do not take illustration work and very few portrait jobs I can be pickier about reference. It is true that too many artists have come to rely almost exclusively on photos to work from and have little or no experience working from life. Is this art or is it craft? Is there a difference? My advise is to draw and paint from life whenever possible. There is no other way to truly hone your skills and be authentic in your work. I need to take my own advise more seriously. I am also now vegan and I thought that leap would be hard...but it hasn't been at all!  I want the joy back that I ONLY truly feel when working from life. Copying the marks on a photo just doesn't have the same zing to it. Thanks to Sharon for helping me to get my priorities straight. Read her blog. You might be annoyed, even angered a bit, but you won't be sorry.


  1. Thanks for sharing your process Karen, I will also check out the blog. By the way, I am vegan too and have been sending inquiries to companies and researching art supplies. Some are obvious, others are not. I plan to share my results in my next post. Vegan is a joyful way to eat. I actually eat a much wider variety of good food than I did before going veg (vegetarian for 12 years, vegan for the past 3).

  2. Hi Renee. Finding out what is in our art supplies has been a challenge to say the least. I am using products without animal content to the best of my ability but it isn't easy. As someone said on one of the vegan sites I looked at, if one really cares about the environment, animals, etc. one would not use most art supplies at all - everything is made from something that damages the planet one way or another. I have been vegetarian for about a dozen years (my husband for over 30) and making the leap to full vegan is turning out to be just fine! Have any favorite recipes?