Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sun Tunes

Diane Mannion, SUN TUNES, 6x6" oil
      There's a bench outside the kitchen window next to a potted palm that casts gorgeous shadows in the morning.  John was out there listening to music and I shouted, "Don't move!"  Grabbed my camera and snapped away.  Wanted to continue my theme on painting from photos, (it's endless) so I painted Sun Tunes from that snapshot.
      Recently, I downloaded a few ebooks of artist's paintings... Sorolla, and others.  Some of these ebooks have 300+ paintings.  While flipping through these pages, evidence of photographic reference was obvious to me.  This was the dawn of the photography age, Sorolla even did a painting of his photographer.  And though he also painted from life, I'm pretty sure he once in awhile used (gasp) photographs as reference.  I'm sure the oxen that pulled the fishing boats out of the surf didn't hold still long enough for Sorolla to paint from life.  And neither did the children playing at the waters edge.  Yes, his paintings are beautiful, but I suspect he used the photograph as a tool.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  It's what he did with this tool, how he used it to achieve his vision that counts.  After all, everyone has heard of Vermeer using the camera obscura, and that was long before Sorolla.
   It's what the artist does with these photographic images to create a painting that matters.  Take for instance, Joseph Raphael's watercolors.  Videos online show his painstaking technique of tracing projected images with a pencil.  But it's where he takes it from there that matters!  His paintings are fabulous.
    Another example of art merged with photography is the work of Chuck Close.  Photography is central to his work, but it's his vision that makes the paintings come to life. 
     So what does this have to do with my daily paintings?  Sometimes, a gesture, a moment, an inspiration of light striking an object or person can only be captured by the photograph.  No time to set up the plein air easel at those times.  But the photographic image is not enough for me.  The challenge is translating this digital reference into living paintings.   I'd much rather be painting from life but not everything holds still long enough.

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