People look at art and many times ask, “Is it real?” or “I don’t get it!” Does it mean the viewer doesn't understand the vision of the artist because it’s just not real enough? Artists are visual interpreters that tie colors and forms together, whether real or abstract. An artist’s inspiration is influenced by many factors like color, shape and the emotional feeling the subject evokes. Not everyone interprets these elements the same and consequently sees them differently. The old adage, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” rings truthful when it comes to artistic expression. Who can say if it’s real or not? The answer belongs to the viewer!
To do or not to do is the question many artists ponder. There are some valid reasons to use photos. It can be convenient or useful if the artist doesn't have access to a model, scene or object. Using photos is just one of three basic ways to develop a painting. Visual, memory and imagination can offer ideas and reference material. Photos are a popular form of reference. I prefer to work from my own photos for two reasons. One, I am familiar with the scene, object or person; second, it becomes my original from photo to painting. If you choose to work from other’s photos, be careful to make sufficient changes or have the permission of the photographer. For those interested in photo reference, there are several good websites that photographers offer for free. But remember using photos as reference does not mean great paintings. Using your own creative self is often the “Best of Show.”
Below is my original photo, sketch and finished painting.
Often all artists will say "I don't know what to paint!" It's a common problem. Funny thing is . . . there is so much to paint. Inspiration can come from anything, a tiny speck of sand to beautiful looming mountains. We fret too much over this and waste time trying to figure it out. Maybe the answer lies in how we learn to see. Not what we look at, but what we really see. There are generally three things to motivate and inspire our subject matter. Observation, things you see every day; photographs, magazines, or other visual material; and memories.
Of course there is intuition. This is the way some seasoned artists paint. Trance-like with only an idea, they will proceed and challenge the unexpected surprises. Mostly it's the stored info one has gained over a period of time that takes over. Sometimes the most creative paintings comes from an idea that's been visualized for a while and finally has to be released. Many artists will take an idea and work a series of painting from that single idea. It can evolve into other creative ideas for paintings. Make a list of ideas you have or things you feel an emotion to. You might not ever paint these but they can lead to other ideas that might actually become a painting.
Here's one that started from an idea and seemed to evolve on it's own. Strange how this happens at times and other times it's a struggle.
Mystic Mountain - 22x30 watercolor on Arches 140# cold press paper.
BJ Pinkston has always loved to draw. She said, “My first memory is a mural I drew on the blackboard in the third grade. It was dinosaurs in colored chalk. The teacher left it up for the entire year. I was so proud!” She described her style as a mix of Impressionism and Abstract Impressionism. She noted that like many artists in the beginning she painted realistic detailed paintings, but as the years have passed, her style has evolved….less detail and more freedom. BJ’s passion when it comes to a medium to use is watercolors. However, she will use any medium or mix of mediums that will best represent her ideas. She said she choose watercolors because she loved the “flow of paint and it was the first class I took and I was hooked for life.” She gets her ideas from everywhere and makes notes of what she sees. She likes nature and organic images and her mixed media art comes from her imagination.