This week, Shelby Keefe (“Painting From Photographs”) shares a painting fresh from her easel, Urban Patchwork. She explains her goals for the piece and how she took an imperfect photo and turned it into a fantastic painting.
The main goal in painting this successfully is in the editing. Having a blurry photo helps to get rid of the infinite amount of tiny bits of information, but this photo still had way too many lights bouncing around and keeping the viewer restless and not knowing where to land.
I did some pencil thumbnail sketches to help me decide on values of the biggest shapes, which was a great way to start in plein air as well as painting from your photos.
As I painted on this piece, I subtracted brushwork as well as adding to it. I probably should have moved the light post away from the building to its right, but I liked how the light that shoots vertically along the edge of that building so I decided to leave it caressing side of the building. I eliminated the white car and the red motorcycle in front of it because it seemed like unnecessary information.
Exaggerating the values for the painting was also important for its success. Darkening the bulk of the building to the right and only suggesting windows helps hold it together as a compositional as well as heightening the lights to create glow.
To learn more about how to successfully paint from imperfect photo references, check out Shelby Keefe’s video “Painting From Photographs”.