Painting from holiday photos can bring back many great memories but there are some problems with photos. The camera can sometimes strip colour from highlights and make them too light while making the shadows often appear much darker. Super dark shadows often mean that the lovely luminosity that gives such depth to them is barely visible.
If you paint plein air or from life you will eventually begin to see the difference between the values in photos and in real life. Painting from life helps you become more sensitive to subtle colours and values that are not always evident in photos.
I encourage you to start observing the light and shadow areas outside in your yard, while travelling or anywhere outside. Notice that the dark shadows are luminous and not solid black. Why? Because light bounces around and filters into the shadows. Not only are they not solid black but they usually have colour of some sort, like a very deep blue, deep green, deep reddish or some other colour. It can be hard to detect but keep looking and soon you will become sensitized to those subtle colours and luminosity in the shadows. Look at the lights too and notice that they also have some colour in them.
The two photos below are a great example. Notice how the closest mountain is nearly black? You can't see much detail and the same thing applies to the shadow on the rock guard rail. Now look at the photo below it. You can see the luminosity in both the closest mountain and rock guard rail as well as detail in each of them. Not that we want to get a bad case of detailitis where we paint every single eensy teensy thing visible but we do want to avoid the heaviness of overly dark shadows that have no depth or luminosity.
In our October classes we’ll be painting from photos. They can be anything you like family, home, landscape or those great holiday photos! Your choice of subject matter. Some people may want to continue painting still life from life, that’s fine too.
Until then happy observing!