There is a certain kind of magic that happens when a work is drawn or painted from life. I'm not sure if I ever could fully put it into words, but I'll try and write a little about it here. It's not always possible to work from life, but as digital photography advances, then I feel artists rely too heavily on them.
Photography is an excellent tool in certain ways. And I think it's a great tool for capturing animals especially. But I feel strongly that great paintings are not just copies of photographs.
I've also been trying to figure out what changes when I work from life versus when I work from photographs. One of the major differences is that photos overwhelm the eye and have way too much information in them. The eye perceives much less detail in the real world even though it may seem that the real world has much more information than a photo. Although life is constantly shifting between colors, values and focuses, a photo freezes a single moment and can easily trick the artist into painting too much detail.
I love sketching from life and often times these sketches are my biggest inspiration when I begin a final painting. I also use photos as compositional references and for placement, but I really avoid taking my color and detail from photos. It's also way too easy to get bogged down in all the detail of a photo so I also highly recommend squinting while you work from photos (squinting while you work from life is also a good tip).
I've included some sketches I did tonight from a seafood restaurant. The lobsters caught my eye so I did a few little sketches of them from life. If I were to do a painting of those lobsters I would use these sketches along with some color studies and photos to create a finished painting. Of course, each artist has their own methods and can find their own balance between sources. That's the fun part of building a personal artistic process!
I spent today cleaning up and refining more details and the overall values. The overall value structure of a painting is really important and I always try to balance the lights, mid-tones and darks. The best tip I have for balancing value is to squint a lot while you paint. Squinting helps to keep the values accurate.
I should be able to finish this painting in the next session and then let it dry before I sign it and varnish it.
I recently re-read this wonderful book that I wanted to share with everyone. It's called the Book of Five Rings, or The Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. The book was written around 1645 by the famous swordsman and philosopher, Musashi.
I had read it once before when I was in college and was excited to re-read it at this stage in my life. It's really easy to find and the copy I got is illustrated, which is cool, but not necessary. The beauty of this book is that the ideas don't only apply to being a swordsman; the book is really about larger philosophical ideas. I read it from an artistic point of view and learned a ton. Musashi was also interested in all the arts and even did some painting and calligraphy.
The final part of the whole book has the biggest impact on me. It's a list of around 21 precepts translated as "The Path Walked Alone" that Musashi lays out in a bullet point type format. It's a beautiful list and acts as a simple guide to living well.
I encourage everyone to read this book at some point and share it with as many people as possible.
Anyone interested in more information can check out:
Did some compositional sketching and stretched a new canvas for this commission. I'm using Claessens double oil-primed linen, which I used previously on the portrait of my girlfriend (pictured in gallery below); I really like the Claessens and put a tone down on it with some earth colors and Gamsol. The tone will be dry by tomorrow so I can sketch in the underdrawing and then get to work!