Expressing A Photo In Watercolor

In 2012 I gave up the notion that I have to be somebody and have a substantial income to go anywhere in my life.

I put to death the idea that I was a perpetual failure and that my experiences to that point were unsatisfactory.

I hit the trail on the path less travelled – art is my passion; therefore, there must be some way to make money at it. 

One of my first trips I took out of this new-found passion was a singles group trip down to Hocking Hills with a friend of mine. With a larger group we hiked from Old Man’s cave to Cedar Falls and back. The loop is six miles total. I carried only a pocket-sized sketchbook and my digital camera.

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As you can tell my painting has some striking differences from the photo. Which one is more accurate?

I can tell you this about my experience in Hocking Hills, the colors in real life are always brighter than my digital camera will let me portray.

I put together some world-shaking points on translating from photo to painting. Hopefully these ideas will help free you up in your creative process of watercolor painting.

  • Watercolor success is not dependent on photo accuracy
  • Perfection won’t work from photo to painting – there are too many details that are minute enough to miss; colors and camera distortion are other reasons why you won’t match detail for detail
  • Eliminate unnecessary details – it will be impossible to get every limb, branch, leaf, root, etc… because of size translation
  • Enhance drab colors-use a limited palette (mine was ultramarine, lemon yellow, cadmium red, alizarin crimson)
  • Chock the process that was not working when you started
  • Use thick layers and subtraction to create dimensionality
  • Painting from a photo can be fun, but you have to learn to be creative in the process

When you are inspired by a photo go for it, that is if it is your own. It is likely that you will get discouraged along the path to completion because you are not portraying it exactly. Remember that you are the artist and have skills and techniques that supersede that of a photo.

With a little problem solving and creativity you will make the image your own.

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