Painting From Photographs

11 Jan 2010

I normally work from plein air sketches or my imagination, but this scene I photographed while on vacation in Costa Rica was just too beautiful to pass up. As most artists do when working from a photo, I made adjustments to the composition to better suit my painting. I first changed the foreground to make it more interesting, introducing lines to direct viewers' attention around the composition, and then eliminated overhanging branches, which I thought suggested something beyond the canvas that wasn't resolved. While painting, I spent quite a bit of time trying to add variety to the otherwise monochromatic palette of greens, mixing various combinations of warm (ultramarine blue and cadmium yellow) and cool (Winsor blue and cadmium lemon); and I glazed mixtures of Galkyd medium and transparent colors (transparent red oxide, Indian yellow, and Winsor blue). To finish, I'll spray it with retouch varnish to unify the surface with a gloss.

The painting is 18" x 24", oil on canvas. I'm going to put it on a shelf in my office so I can imagine being back in the tropical environment when I'm stuck in cold, wet, chaotic New York City.


For more information on creating art from photographs, check out the Painting Highlights from Master Teachers, Fall 2009, which features an article on three painting friends who exchanged photographs in an experiment designed to teach them about different approaches to painting, or download the free Artist Daily eBook Step by Step: Draw People from a Photograph.

M. Stephen Doherty

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Judy P. wrote
on 11 Jan 2010 8:35 AM

Beautiful painting- I can see it being a conversation piece in your office, where you can continually tell stories about your great vacation!

Margo5 wrote
on 11 Jan 2010 9:04 AM

Beautiful painting. I love the way you added even more interest to the original photo to liven up the painting.

MelvinToledo wrote
on 11 Jan 2010 11:19 AM

Great job, I love the banana tree in the foreground and the warm colors that welcome the viewer in to this paradise. I am from the mountains of  Nicaragua and this painting just brought to me the most beautiful memories.

Thanks for sharing.


babshaake wrote
on 2 Feb 2010 9:16 PM

Wow!  Your picture doesn't look much like the photograph at all.  It is more interesting and beautiful to get lost in.  I love the reds you put into the forground and the waterfall you added.  I think all you used was the mountain range and even that you added depth and distance too.  I love your painting.