Oct 15, 2015

Tricks and Treats with Multiple Reference Photos


Are you filled with an awesome inspiration?

You go through your reference material and  . . .

Oh no, my dog is facing the wrong way.
Or, is that bird to big for the branch?
Even worse, my lighting, everything is different, the shadows are going everywhere.
But worst of all, I can’t see all of the person, that branch is in the way.

You can feel that awesome thought slipping away. 

But wait, don’t panic. 
True, no reference is perfect!  But you are an artist and there are “secrets” that will help you move on.  
Brian and Tula (On Texada Island)

Where is my Right? Who took my left?

Surprising enough the direction the subject faces can be easily solved.  Just use the magic of  Photoshop - Rotate Horizontally.  I know, now your are going to say I still need to worry about size and shadows. 

First you are left and now you are right!!

Who is bigger than who?  or is whom?

Now things are getting more challenging.  There is no handy dandy computer program that will tell you the proportions for your bird to the branch.   When I am working with birds and flowers, I take a few measurements.  The bird sizes are in my bird books and I usually use local plants if I can.  Not so easy with larger animals and people.  I often go to a park and work with the trees and plants there.  Again I have sizes from reference material to help. 
 In the case of Brian and Tula,  I knew in the summer that I was going to need a certain background with a person in it.  So I used my handy dandy husband as a model.  He posed in various places along the beach until I found a spot I liked for my background.  ( I might add he was very patient as we had to go several times. I forgot about the tide!!)

Have you seen the light?   

Here is where your creative genes can really flow.  In order to get the lighting right you need to simulate the situation.  No, you do not have to get a bear and shine a light on him but a model will work just as well.  A small clay model will work to get a feel for the shadows on his body and the ground around. I am often out in the backyard setting up props to photograph.  Whenever possible I like to use a 'real' situation as you get not only the shadows but a feel for the reflected light on your subject. (Yes, my neighbours have often given me a few funny looks!)  For this painting I was lucky, I had my 'model'. (see previous paragraph)

Where is the tail? Shouldn't there be 2 ears?

Now this really can be a challenge - missing pieces.  But remember, you are an artists. You can draw. Photographers are stuck with that branch hanging in the way but you can move it.  I know, that is the problem.  You leave it out but now there is a whole in your subject.  If it is a person, it is easy.  Grab the nearest person, put them in the position and photograph away. (Needless to say, my husband was back on the job again.)
Animals and birds are another thing.  I take lots of pictures when I photograph something.  My hard-drive is full of pictures with animals in the craziest positions. My techie, otherwise known as my son, often comments on the size of my picture library and all the storage space I need.  But when I try and delete some of it,  my finger just wont work!   You can never have too many pictures for reference.
Sketch on tracing paper to work up your subject
But I know things happen, this is your awesome idea from a picture you took on holidays last summer.  You only have one picture of your elephant and his side is covered by branches.  (You might want to consider keeping those branches in your picture, just a thought) You need more reference material. The internet is your next bet.  Do an image search for elephants. No, you wont find a better picture but you will find out what his side looks like.  Now you can finish the drawing.  I like to use tracing paper to work out my shapes. I can make lots of changes and get a feel for how it will look before I commit to my watercolour paper.  You can also include the shadows and check out your lighting ideas at the same time.

Don't let those awesome ideas disappear.  Get creative. Make a model. Make them happen!

Got your own tricks and treats for those pesky reference pictures? What are they?

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Have a great artful day,
Not too late for that Christmas Commission, order today.  


Lea Sevcov said...

great blog post Wendy. Would you be interested in teaching a workshop on this subject to the Garibaldi Art Club in the new year? Contact me if you are interested lsevcov@icloud.com

Brenda Hill CDM said...

I hope that good looking model was well paid!

Wendy Mould AFCA said...

Yes he was! He is getting lots of modelling experiens as my commission work is taking me into new directions. As long as his rates are low I will be able to keep him on!