Paintings Have Their Own Personalities

August 21, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Painting by Karen Sperling based on her photo.

When it comes to painting paintings based on photos (or imagination, too), practice doesn't necessarily make perfect. One would think that it would, that one could learn a set of steps, some art theories and turn out painting after painting, but it doesn't work that way, for me, anyway. I find that each painting has its own unique set of painting mysteries that need to be uncovered and solved, ranging from which brush to use to what colors to choose. One solution does not fit all. This is the challenge, the frustration and ultimately the satisfaction of painting. It it were easy or repeatable, it would be boring. Because each painting begins with no clue about how to proceed, the steps from start to finish are scary, exciting and one hopes, rewarding.
Take the above painting, for instance. It was based on a photo I took during a wedding. I really didn't have a plan in mind for the final look of the piece, beyond that it would be sort of dreamy based on the subject's expression. The project was fun for me because of the way in which the painting revealed its personality to me in the process.

Source photo.

The photo started out as a snapshot before the wedding. I cropped it to focus on the woman.

Cropped photo.

Next, I thought I'd turn the photo into a black and white image. I love the look of black and white and I thought black and white enhanced the mystery of the subject's expression.

Black and white version.

Once the basic composition and tones were established, it was time to do the painting. This is where the painting's personality takes over. As the painting emerges, you get into a certain pace and a certain mindset. And they are different for each painting. They say art is about the artist's expression and while I would agree that's true at the end, I do think the painting's nature and individuality dictate the final result as much as the artist's skill and talent. Working on a commissioned painting vs. one you do for yourself can either be seen as a challenge or limiting. I see it as a challenge to try to come up with something that the client will love and as far as being limiting because I don't get to do whatever I want, I actually like having to fit into certain parameters. Instead of feeling restricting, having to think about the clients' tastes actually helps the painting process because you have fewer decisions to make.
As you paint, the brushstrokes that you need for the particular painting become clear. For me, the painting always is tentative at first as I try to find the movement of the brush and the look of the brushstrokes for the painting. Then as I fill more and more of the canvas, the painting becomes a little more aggressive as the painting takes on its own character. By the end, sometimes I can't stop looking at the painting because I'm as surprised by it as the clients!
Keeping in mind that the artist creates something unique with every painting and that paintings can take on their own personalities, if you're a client, it's always a good idea to commission paintings by an artist who is interested in helping you to discover the right personality for the paintings he or she will paint for you by discussing what the painting means to you, what colors suit you and if you have a certain style in mind. You can see some examples of my various styles in the Galleries link at the top, left of this page.
If you're a student, it's helpful to remember the notion that your paintings will reveal themselves to you. If you do, the learning will seem less like work to you and more like discovery of your--and your paintings'--own personal styles.
You'll find a video with the steps for painting in this style and others under Artistry Quick Fix Videos in the Corel Painter Videos link at the top of this page.


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