Working from a photo


  Step 1: On Location
  I love painting outdoors, especially in the friendly wilderness of Algonquin Park.
  However, there are times when on-location painting or even sketching is not possible. 
  In this case, I was boating on Bear Lake, at the southern tip of Algonquin Park.
  As I was with friends and in a moving boat, I chose to take photographs. I found
  the dramatic cliffs and the late afternoon sun sparkling on the water very appealing.


With a few simple tools, you can easily and accurately transfer the scene in a reference photo to your painting support.

The first step is to make a viewfinder, which is a small piece of matboard or heavy cardboard with a window cut out of it. I prefer a 4"x3" window opening as this size is proportionate to a 24"x18" sheet of paper. It also corresponds to the exact measurements of a miniature painting, which I often paint with the help of a photo. However, you can create a viewfinder in any size you prefer, just so long as it is proportionate to your painting support.


   Step 2: Translating the photo into a value sketch  
   Using the viewfinder, I chose a composition from the photograph and translated that into a
   value sketch. Notice how I cropped the image to include only the most interesting portion of
   the reference photo. The fuzzy foreground trees presented a compositional problem, which
   I worked out in a 4"x3" value drawing, altering the values here and  there to strengthen the

Using my viewfinder


   Step 3: Transferring the image
   I then divided my small value sketch and my 24"x18" white surface into quarters to prepare to transfer
   the image. I used the small sketch to mark the broad outlines of the composition onto the paper, and
   as the base from which I developped the finished painting.




Value Drawing



   Step 4: The finished work 
  "Bear Lake I" was painted in the late afternoon sun. I wanted the painting to be predominantly cool and
   chose deep dark greens and purples for the rock formations, which showed off the evening light on the
   tips of the trees and, more importantly, the sparkling reflections on the water.

Bear Lake I




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