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The Secret Use Of Photography In Paintings Revealed

It is suspected that the influence of photography's use in paintings has been in practice since the time of Johannes Vermeer and maybe earlier on since the invention of the camera obscura. Even though the camera has been available for centuries, film was not invented until the 1800's. There are several styles which developed from the use of photography. Precisionism for example which celebrated the modernization of the American landscape. Found photographic subjects were placed with precision into the painting hence the birth of the term. In the 1960's Photorealism became popular. Photorealism then sprang Hyperrealism which is basically a photorealistic painting with enhanced colors or exaggerated distored sizes and shapes such as the use of zooming into a piece and painting the details to the tiniest view which the human eye would not have been able to detect otherwise. We are going to take a look at some of these artist's work and reveal their use of photography.

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According to Frank Bernarducci, "..Photorealists and Hyperrealists, undertook methodical, mimetic art that often examined the blending of image mediums into each other while suggesting iconographic, metaphoric elements. The digital age has yielded new dimensions in a historical continuum of representational painting." The Precisionist artists take on a stark clarity in the final surface image, blurring or highlighting with the use of Photoshop.

Jan Nelson

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Jan Nelson is a professional photographer and uses a NIkon D800 with a 28-300 lens lenses and other lenses if he knows that the lighting will be particularly challenging. He very rarely uses a monopole or tripod to photograph the wide angle and sharp images of the machinery he later takes into Photoshop and ultimately paints. He is considered a Precisionist artist.

He explains his process:

"Because the cost of taking a lot of images is virtually zero, I shoot a lot of additional reference shots to gather more information about the subject composed in the primary photograph. Those references answer questions that arise as I work through my understanding when back in my studio. In the studio, I use a 55" 4K UHD TV as a monitor, allowing me to enlarge the imagery tremendously. I do not miss using a slide viewer! Speaking of slides, which were the dominant film I used in the past, I work now with a video projector, having retired the old slide projector years ago. My current projector is a JVC LX-WX50 which is rated at 5000 lumens, making it bright enough to use when laying out a drawing or painting in daylight."

Alyssa Monks

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Alyssa Monks takes thousands of photographs and then uses Photoshop as needed for the final reference to use in her paintings. She uses photographs to create a painting that surpasses the look of the photograph and not simply imitate it.

From a distance her paintings look photorealistic but when you come closer, the brush strokes are eminent. Lately she has been painting figures into a natural environment or with ornaments of leaves and tress blending into the final piece.

Her workshop's "emphasis is placed on paint application and ways of activating the surface. By focusing on deliberate brush strokes and maintaining accurate color relationships rather than rendering, the application of paint creating a narrative of emotion or energy."

Eric Fischl

Eric Fischl | Photography Collage / Via artspace.com

Eric Fischl makes collages from his own photographs and then uses them as a reference for some of his large scale figurative paintings. Here we have "The Gang" which were photos taken in St. Tropez in the 1980's and features his wife as the main subject surrounded by his friends.

Matthew Cherry

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Matthew Cherry's collages are from magazines. He assembles body parts and objects making a new and interesting species. He is working from these various collages for a new series of paintings. He also has used photography as a reference for his large scale portraits.

Jacques Bodin

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Jacques Bodin uses his own photography and modifies them with digital tools then uses a video projector to shoot the image onto a canvas as he paints. Here is a before and after showing the original photo on the left and the finished painting on the right. The colors have been enriched and he changed the background. According to Jacques "photography is the foundation of my pieces and I refer to them throughout the painting process trying to not copy them but to bring them to life. Photography helps me achieve the photorealism I am looking. My goal is to give enough detail to have a painting look like a photo but in some areas have looser strokes to define dimension and add interest."

Alessandro Tomassetti

Alessandro Tomassetti who is a professional photographer uses a Mamiya RB67 with an adjacent universal press for Polaroids and for digital photography a Fuji X-Pro 1. The majority of his photoshoots are with professional models. He uses photography not only to capture an interesting composition but also as a way to to connect with his subjects.

He then selects from various photos the final reference for his painting. He explains "I try to set up the shoots to looks like the paintings I want to paint. That means the lighting has to be staged/designed properly. If I know I’ll be working from photos, and the model is local, I still try to get him to come in and sit 3 times: for the initial shoot, after the first color layer is painted and at the end to allow me to incorporate little details like freckles/moles or reflections/shine which may have been lost in the photos. If they are not local, I write notes, sketch a face map and take closeup detail photos."

Donna Bates

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Donna Bates photographs her modes in her small studio using stark lighting to create a mood. She then uses Photoshop to consider various backgrounds and adds accessories.

Leslie Thiel

Most of Leslie Thiel's paintings have motion as the central focus. She takes thousands of photographs to capture movement and combines the images for the final reference to work from. She then adds interesting backgrounds or surrealism such as women in mid-air with objects flying around them. She says she is not a professional photographer but did take a course to help her use set the lens.

Francien Krieg

Francien Krieg takes her own photography and many of her models are older women posing in the nude.

She recently had a baby and has several paintings with the newborn being held by her husband. Her photography is used as reference for her paintings and as the painting develops she lets go of the photo and tries to find my her own vibe in her work.

Laura Tan

Laura Tan uses photography a tool to capture moments and develop ideas.

She is mostly the the photographer although in some cases she has someone else take her photos. Once she finds a pose she'd like to explore further, a Nikon camera is her equipment of choice although her iPhone sometimes does the job. She then uses a large format printer to scale the image to the size she wants to paint and then transfers the printed image onto a prepared wet surface. She then traces through the printed image offset transferring pencil coated paper into a clean surface. She continues to refer to the image from her laptop as she continues to work the final piece.

Claudia Kaak

Filmstill from The New World by Terrence Malick

Claudia Kaak many times takes filmstills of movies. She then will use the image and change the colors and background until she is pleased with the final piece.

Jeffrey Bess

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Jeffrey Bess takes photos with his iPhone. The Constitution Trail in Bloomington is many times the inspiration for his landscapes. He also takes photos of found objects such as squirrel skulls and cicada shells he finds and other interesting discarded objects. He then takes the images into Photoshop and plays with them further making them starker to fit his views of the world.

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce

The earliest known surviving photograph made in a camera, was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 or 1827. The image depicts the view from an upstairs window at Niépce's estate, Le Gras, in the Burgundy region of France.

Since the invention of the camera, artists have been using it to create art. Yet even today you have artists who frown upon it's use. That may be because some artists have given the use of photography in paintings a bad reputation by painting on the actual photography and calling it Photorealism.

I suggest we call these artists Colorists instead of any other movement's title but further discussion on that article will have to wait to be written.

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