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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > January 19 > Yes you can paint from photos!

Yes you can paint from photos!

Bob Brandt shares his tips for using photographs as a visual prompt for your paintings

For over 200 years artists have used a variety of optical devices to produce designs for paintings and cameras, as we know them, have been used extensively by graphic and fine artists as design tools since they were first produced. The camera is clearly a very convenient way of capturing images for paintings in busy situations like streets and bars, yet the taint of using photographs as reference lingers.

We think that the camera cannot lie, but in reality how a camera ‘sees’is totally different from the way we humans see, and copying a photograph with all the skill in the world can only produce a painting that looks just like a photograph! The key to using photos as reference is to allow them as a visual prompt, to take you back to the time and place when they were taken, so you recall that actual experience.

Every photograph records, in a fraction of a second, the scene in front of the camera in complete detail. Our eyes cannot do that. We have to scan the area around us, taking in small areas at a time and assembling them mentally to create a general impression of where we are and what might be of interest. David Hockney experimented with this ‘assembled snap-shot’effect in the Polaroid photograph collages he made in the 1980s.

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About The Artist

Welcome to the first issue of 2019 to inspire and inform your artistic development, including all the information you will need to plan your entries to the best open competitions throughout the year in our extensive 5-page guide. We also see the start of two new series, by Ruth Buchanan on how to draw and paint animals with confidence, and Mark David Hatwood on all aspects of marketing and how to make money from your artwork. There are practical articles and demonstrations showing you how to adapt your painting techniques for coloured pencil work, with amazing results, how to paint a self-portrait as well as a stunning faded rose, both in watercolour, and how to make your watercolours more dynamic by using watercolour grounds. Our top artist contributors also share their expertise on best practice for working on the spot, how to plan a complex composition, paint your first realist still life in acrylic, use your sketchbooks to work out your ideas, how to paint successfully from your photos and which colours to mix in oils to achieve a sense of space in your landscapes. With all this and much more, there's plenty to keep you drawing and painting over the festive period. Enjoy!