Painting from Photographs Techniques

by Neadeen Masters on April 4, 2015

Painting from Photographs Techniques

Playing up the colors to create a new piece of art.

Image Copyright Neadeen Masters – 2015 – All rights reserved.

For those of us artists who enjoy painting from photographs, its not always easy to know what to keep or edit from our final images. Here are some techniques that I use to help me reach a successful composition to paint. Not every photograph makes a perfect image, but thankfully,  photo editing software can help us work miracles. Here’s a good example of a ‘nothing special’ image… that’s what I like to call them. I was hurriedly shopping in a little antique store in West Virginia.  It had the best collection of vintage colored glass on display. These colorful candy jars sat on a glass shelf with the sun streaming in behind them, so I quickly snapped a photo and below is the result. It isn’t a great image, but its good enough to look back on and perhaps do something with in the future. Well… the future is now!

Painting from Photographs at Art Apprentice Online

Techniques I Use –  Look for Hidden Assets

Study your photographs and make notes about color, line, light, quantity of light, image details etc…Ask yourself…Do I leave it as is, or do I compose a whole new arrangement? Taking time to completely rearrange the objects would mean changing the perspective from what it is. This would then involve re-drawing the jars from a different vantage point. Hmmmm? Yes! That’s a huge amount of work for sure. I might also loose the effects of the light on the jars that caught my eye in the first place.  The stained glass effects, the twinkling of the light and the way it bounced around inside the empty containers. I stress empty…why you might ask? If the containers were filled with candy, or other contents, the light would not pass through the translucent jars in the same manner. The overall effects of the bouncing light would be lost!

Painting colorful glass containers

Looking Into the Details of the Photographs

On close inspection of the photograph, I could see there were many lovely colors hiding in the details.  Not just red and green as the image shows, but turquoise, yellow, orange, blues, yellow green, lime green and aqua! As an artist we are not bound by what the photograph first dictates, we can emphasize what ever we want. As the goal in this exercise was to catch the bright sunshine, it  allows for the exaggeration of the yummy colors.  It allows one to change the tempo of the painting to suit any mood we wish to re-create. Originally, when I took the photograph I was in a happy place, the bright colors felt exciting and I was also thrilled to see such a vast and lovely collection of colorful vintage glass.  Finally…I wanted to leave the three jars positioned as is…clean up the perimeter, but allow all these beautiful happy colors to sing!

Playing up the colors to create a new piece of art.

Image Copyright Neadeen Masters – 2015 – All rights reserved.

Above is what I consider a final image that is as close to the original vision I had for this playful composition. The array of colors, both warm and cool are well balanced and the neutral background supports the overall concept. (Note the subtle colors reproduced in the background) While the slope of the shelf edge draws attention, it is completely balanced by the bold color both above and below it. The jars with their vertical lines and size add strength to the painting and the diagonal line of the shelf adds movement and temperature contrast. The strong sunshine streaming in from behind is described with the use of lost edges on the jar lids and the exaggeration of the intense color palette.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jill Paris Rody April 5, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Neadeen, this painting is Glorious!!! Thank you for sharing your process… it’s always good for any artist (that’s me) to see and hear and learn from another (you!) Cheers and Blessings on this Blessed Easter Morning!


Neadeen Masters April 8, 2015 at 12:38 am

Thank you Jill. It’s fun to break it down, especially for those who might be stumped knowing where to begin.
Cheers to you,


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