To start a painting I sometimes spend time looking at images for a jumpstart. These images could be photographs I took on trips, pictures from art books, drawings and sketches, postcards, or magazine advertisements – just about anything that makes my eyes happy. If I find an image that is particularly exciting I will pin it up near my easel to keep it as a reference while I work. There is a danger, however, in working too closely from a reference image. If I stick too closely to it, the work will look tight and lack spirit. One of my favorite artists, Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917) said "Imitation is not inspiration, and inspiration only can give birth to a work of art." Here is a trick I like to use so that I can refer to other images, but still keep my painting fresh and original. I try to pick out at least three images for reference, not only one. I will then use each for a different inspirational aspect. For instance, one image may have a color palette that inspires me, while another image has a composition that looks enticing. The third image might have certain forms or shapes that I like. By using and combining all three at the same time, my imagination feels free to add, edit and transform the images in front of me, and my painting ends up a complete surprise, as well as extremely different from any of the original references. In creating my newest painting, Think of Something Fun
, I used several of my landscape photographs and some sketches I had created on hiking trips in New Mexico, especially several of Georgia O’Keeffe’s favorite spots in Abiquiu, New Mexico.
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