Recently, I was reminded of that worn comment that goes: “Painting a photograph is being a copy machine”. At the time, I was painting my newest creation, which just happened to be from a photograph I took in the Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens. More than half way through, my husband commented that my painting looked just like the photograph. I was both pleased and sad at the same time. I was pleased with the technical ability, but I started wondering if I were really an artist.
Besides adding an iguana, which hadn’t been
present in the photograph, to the painting, I started thinking about how I could make my painting more “artsy” and not just a copy of the photograph. I studied the painting and noticed that the greens of the prickly pear cactus were blending into the greens of the bushes and grasses behind it. This was not good. So, I found something to solve both problems. To get rid of the blending and make the painting more artsy, I decided to add a couple of colors that were not in the photo, but that I knew would be artistically correct. For a good number of the shadowed prickly pear buds, which I had painted a dark green, I repainted them violet. I did the same in the sahuaro cactus and in various shadows around the painting, including some of the twiggy tree branches. I also added a bright magenta to some of the midtones and highlights of the prickly pear and the sahuaro. I also, added some of the color in various parts of the painting, such as on the hedgehog cactus.
This was a learning moment for me. I found that I liked the painting much more with the addition of the new colors. I’ll keep this lesson in mind for future paintings and ask myself, “What can I do with the painting that will endow it with an artistic tone?” I’m sure there are other approaches, and I would love to hear what people have to add to this subject.