Posts Tagged ‘reference photos’

Ideas adapted from life

Friday, February 1st, 2019

If you are a long-time follower of my blog, you probably already know that I take innumerable travel photos for reference purposes.  But I don’t always paint from them verbatim.  The same is true of plein-air sketches, painted quickly on location.  Sometimes they simply trigger an idea that I may want to explore, or suggest a similar scene translated to a different place or circumstance.

This studio oil painting was derived from an idea whose gist had been captured earlier in a plein-air watercolor sketch.

"Beached," by Charlotte Mertz (8"x10" oil on canvas, #181202-o)

“Beached,” by Charlotte Mertz
(8″x10″ oil on canvas, #181202-o)

Knowing that I didn’t have to copy the original scene exactly as it had been, I felt free to adapt the landscape and sky and even change the shape, angle, and colors of the boat to suit my vision for this studio composition.

But when the painting still appeared incomplete, it took some stepping back to recognize what it was missing:  Although the sailboat I’d seen on the shore had had a mast, it had no boom, and the shallow hull lacked a stabilizing keel, so would have required a removable centerboard. (It helps to be familiar enough with the subject matter that generalizations can be made for purposes of adaptation, but a more knowledgeable sailor than I am might still take exception to other aspects of the vessel.  For those aberrations I claim artistic license!)

Adding a boom with furled sail, a centerboard on the ground beside the beached vessel, and a threatening sky helped suggest a more interesting narrative about this apparently abandoned boat.  After making these editorial changes, I was much happier with the finished painting than I’d been with the original sketch.

The length and the breadth and the sweep …

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

Totally aside from the primary destinations of our travels, I enjoy seeing the unfamiliar countryside we pass between our stops.  Whether driving through open farmland, mountain ranges, forests, winding roads along tumbling rivers, or views entirely different, while my traveling companions may read or nap, I try to keep my eyes open to appreciate “the length and the breadth and the sweep” of the changing views.

I had been intrigued by the irregularity of the coastline, the network of meandering waterways, and the grasslands that separated them when we had flown over the Georgia coast last year.  In November this year, my husband and I had the opportunity to take a coach excursion through some of that area, particularly those low-lying tidal plains south of Savannah.

"Marshes of Glynn" by Charlotte Mertz  (9"x12" oil, #181103-o)

“Marshes of Glynn” by Charlotte Mertz
(9″x12″ oil, #181103-o)

The sky was overcast, and a persistent drizzle flecked the bus windows, but I found the lovely gray arch of the distant Lanier Bridge (named for the Sidney Lanier, author of the poem,“The Marshes of Glynn,” which lyrically depicted the wetlands) just as appealing as the autumnal colors in the marsh itself.

Although I could not disembark at the time to paint the scenery, and photos shot from the bus window were blurred with rain, I was later able to undertake a studio painting to depict my impression of the scene as we passed.

Sometimes paint can be a better recorder of memories than a camera.  It may not be as literally accurate, but it can be much more evocative of mood than a quickly snatched snapshot. And, when painted from memory or even poorly executed artist-created reference images, the painting process itself transports the artist back to the pleasures of the original experience.