I’m sure hundreds of people have discussed this subject, and at least half of them are more qualified in terms of their backgrounds to render an opinion than I am. I want to wade in with one comment though since, as you recall, I began the journey first into drawing and then to painting to try to improve my photographic work. I managed to capture one image, the previously posted ‘Mare and Foal,’ which satisfied my concept of a creative photograph. Lately, I put together this painting — watercolor — of the Bath House at Paris Mountain State Park, in the upstate area of South Carolina. While I think I could have done a better job of painting the lower right quadrant of the image, it is — to me at least — better than the photograph where that area is a blacktopped parking lot. I had relegated the photograph to the “back files” of images, but I am much more pleased, at least conceptually, with the painting. Whether photography or painting — the idea to me is to capture the mood of a place rather than the detail. I find it a little easier to use my photograph as reference and paint, perhaps because going out and twisting myself in unusual positions to frame the shot properly is more difficult now. Here is a small version of “Bath House, Paris Mountain” and the larger version is on my website here. The original image is watercolor, 14 x 10, on 140# paper.
This painting was an unexpected surprise. As I looked at it when finished I saw a valley running near a mountain with pine trees. Yet it started as just blocks of color in order to practice the “pine tree” technique. I had to ask myself, to what extent does the painting ‘suggest’ and the mind ‘interpret’ what is seen. Not a particularly surprising thought, but a bit startling to actually experience it. The larger version ‘Three Pines’ is at this gallery page.
I stumbled across an old photograph taken in the 1980s. It was when I was just learning how to set aperture and exposure time to take low light photographs. I was using Ektachrome 35mm slide film at the time. All I have left of the slide is this very bad scan, also done on the first scanner I ever owned — the name of which escapes me.
I always liked the photo mostly for sentimental reasons, recalling my joy at being able to capture what the sun looked like and being able to position the shot to have the sun setting right on top of the dock.
I wanted to know what would happen if I tried to capture this same image as an acrylic painting – I needed some experience mixing colors in acrylics which has turned out to be a problem since I cannot mix on the brush for some reason.
I began the painting by using painter’s tape to mask off the horizon line, and used black gesso for the sky. After that was dry I painted in the sky and let it dry. Next was to mix a color for the water and add it up to the horizon line. The rest of the painting was done by mixing colors (very dark browns, very dark greens) and finishing the components, adding the sun highlights at the end.
Obviously I was not able to render the sun the way I thought I should have, and will mask if off leaving a white disk should I ever try this effect again. But all in all, I am not upset with the result, which I’ve titled ‘Boca Ciega Sunset‘ (click for full image.)
“Winter Field” was named an administrator’s weekly choice for a group I belong to. The upload and comments can be read here. Frankly, I was quite flattered as I am not all that good at painting having pursued the hobby to learn more to enhance my photography. I must admit though that I do like the way I can organize the composition of a painting which is often difficult if not impossible to do in a photograph, especially landscapes which I enjoy. At the moment I’m trying to learn to use acrylics but am having a tough time understanding how to mix for the color I want. It always comes out too intense (oversaturated is the term I would use if it were a photograph). I feel like Thomas Edison, I keep learning procedures and processes that don’t work.
Lots of lessons lately, or maybe understanding is a better word. In creating this image I began to think about the difference between art and craft again. For me, and I realize all these concepts are personal rather than general, art is the conceptualization while craft is the skill with which the concept is implemented in the chosen medium.
Now thinking that brought me back to a couple of my original reasons for starting this blog — improving photography and discussing my work in videography. I have perhaps surprised myself in realizing that to create the “mood” or “reaction” I hope to achieve, I need to choose the medium (photo, video, watercolor, acrylics, and so on) with as much care as anything else.
For example is you check out my Payne’s Prairie Foal image I found it could only work as a photograph to convey the “mood” I was after. On the other hand, the photo I took of the Amelia Island Lighthouse, which is somewhat off the beaten path and not where a vista with water can be approached, seemed to cry out for watercolor.
I have been trying to zero in a bit on what drives my decision concerning whether I should publish an image as a photograph or as a painting. When I did this one I at least got one clue. The painting is very close to the actual photograph but by rendering it as a painting I was able to declutter some of the vegetation and to slightly enlarge the sabal palm which is the main subject. But indeed as I wrote in the description this image caught my eye as we were walking between two points when visiting the preserve. The full resolution image is here.
Somehow I think my experimentation with fine art (watercolors and acrylics) has changed my “eye” when photographing landscapes. I’m not totally sure yet what the change is, but it has something to do with the overall “feel” of the image. We recently travelled to Payne’s Prairie State Park in Micanopy Florida (just a bit south of Gainesville) and arrived on a day the wild horse herd was near the observation tower. The ranger told us that the previous day the wild buffalo herd was nearby. I was able to capture this scene of a new foal being led to a short grass area by the mare. The main herd “off camera” to the left of the viewer where the grass was almost as tall as the horses.
We printed a 16 x 12 (300dpi) version of this image and have it on one of our living room walls above a small table lamp. When the lamp is on, the image literally glows. The 300dpi version can be seen here.