Using Photographs as Reference for Painting Flowers
Flowers have the habit of fading and drooping rather too quickly. Unless you
are a fast and accurate painter, this can be a little problematic. Although this lesson will
encourage you to make use of photographs, it is important to also cultivate the habit of observing and
sketching flower forms from life. Photographs can't always give you the information you need to make your
paining look convincing. For example, the shapes of the stamens and pistils may be blurred in a photo.
Knowing what shape they actually are is very helpful. Sketching from life also gets you into the habit of
observing tonal value and nuances of colour.
That said, I do enjoy photography and especially macro flower photography. I
regularly take and use photographs for my paintings, so allowing one of my hobbies to inform and support
another. I prefer to work in a quite considered way, building up my colour in veils. Photographs
allow me to take my time as well as manipulate and capture the lighting effects I am after.
If you are going to use photographs, do make sure you use your own or at
least have permission to use someone else's photographic work ;-)
Taking Effective Photos for Flower Painting
This isn't a photography course but I felt that a few pointers about taking
or selecting photos for your reference material would be useful.
A strong, directional light source is invaluable in helping
to describe the shape and tones of a flower. A well lit flower is far easier to paint, in my
opinion, and gives a more punchy finished result than a flat lit photo. If there is no strong light
source, you can always use a lamp. I took the photo of a tulip below in my kitchen in poor
lighting. I used lamp with a daylight bulb to give it dramatic light source. From a flat tangle of
coloured shapes, the light instantly transforms the petals into luminous colour and tones which are
crying out for your paints! :-)
Above: tulip photographed in flat ambient
Right: Tulip photographed in directional light from a
The Spring and Summer give plenty of opportunity to
photograph and collect a wealth of flower painting source material. But, when
photographing flowers in your garden, do wait for a sunny day. The results will be
much more pleasing to paint from. In addition, early morning or mid evening,
when the light is low in the sky are best. You will find some dramatic backlit effects
which really bring out the shape and colours of the flower at these times of
More flower photography
Flower Photos in Tuscany
Photographing Flowers- A Mild Obsession
Tips for Great Flower Photography
This Flower Painting Course is Copyright © Theresa Evans All Rights Reserved.
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