I recently made a shift in my painting journey – I started making use of stock photos. That is, photos I buy online and then use as a source for my paintings.
For many artists, this practice is anathema. I think there are two reasons for this: firstly, many artists frown on the use of photos – period. There is a certain allure, realness and romanticism attached to painting from life which is deeply set. Secondly, many artists believe if you are going to make use of photos – you should only use your own photos, backed up with your own actual experiencing of the spirit of the place you are painting.
I will deftly sidestep an ideological debate on these issues by stating the simple reason I am currently making use of stock photos: it allows me to paint more!
Let me explain: Since I have to hold down a day job, my time for painting is extremely limited. In the week, if I am lucky, I have a small window between 4 pm and 7 pm each day in which I have the time and energy to paint.
In most instances I use the photo only as a suggestion of the “lay of the land” – an armature on which to build my painting.
On weekends, there is more time, but with garden and household chores, my time for painting is such that even on my best weekends I have maybe 4 to 5 hours for painting – which normally translates to between two and four small paintings. If I have to spend half of the time I have traipsing about in the countryside, looking for subjects to paint or even taking photos, my painting time would be cut in half, or worse.
So my recent move to make use of stock photos has been extremely liberating, simply because my painting output increased significantly. Here is how I work, and some other observations:
- In hours when I am too tired to paint or work, I stay off Instagram and instead look for stock photos that have a good potential for a painting done in my own style;
- I currently use OnePixel to buy stock photos from: each photo costs me $1.00 and I have a full license to use the photos for my artwork.
- In most instances I use the photo only as a suggestion of the “lay of the land” – an armature on which to build my painting.
- I deliberately deviate from the photo in color and design in the early stages of painting – this immediately breaks the tendency to simply copy.
- Photos are notoriously bad at capturing color correctly. This is one of the prime motivations for painting from life. For me, however, this is of no importance, since most of my color is invented or exaggerated to serve the abstract design I have in mind for the painting
Having said all of the above – this post is not to denigrate or dis-respect the time-honored practices of plein-air painting or making use of your own source photos. I have often painted from life – and have until recently always used only my own photos.
I understand why this is the desired way of creating paintings – so perhaps one day the time will come when I can travel to all the beautiful places I have painted or long to paint. But for now – I use what allows me to paint as often as possible in the time I have available!
It is liberating, if anxiety proviking for me to act in the face of some imagined “art authority”. But, to quote from an earlier post of mine:
It is OK to proceed regardless of what others think – if you are walking a path that is lighted by your spirit. Tomas Transtromer ends his poem “After a Long Dry Spell”, as follows:
It’s all right to telephone the island that is a mirage.It’s all right to hear the gray voice.To thunder iron ore is honey.It’s all right to live by your own code.Translation by Robert Bly in The Half Finished Heaven
How often have I realized the futility and energy-sapping neediness of feeling that you should explain yourself to others and get approval before you have a right to live by your own code. Rilke says:
What goes on in your innermost being is worthy of your whole love; you must somehow keep working at it and not lose too much time and too much courage in clarifying your attitude toward people.
Thanks to all who have encouraged me with likes and comments. A special thanks to those who follow my blog . I wish all of you happiness and contentment.
If you are interested to see more of my work, follow me on Instagram (@fritzjoosteartist), or to view or buy my work, please visit my gallery on Daily Paintworks.