Friday, September 6, 2019

from photograph to art: painting for dummies

Although I hardly ever do it anymore, I love painting.
The way in which a few splotches of colour are able to create an image or evoke a memory, are quite magical. 

I do not think that in painting we have to strive for resemblance; in fact perfect resemblance usually creates boring paintings. 
However; while we shouldn't be bothered by not being able to create picture-perfect paintings, it is a reason why most people stop doing it. I mean: there is a limited number of times where you can start out painting and hoping to create a beautiful portrait of the person you love, only to end up with what can only be described as: Gollum with severe constipation. 

And being surrounded by people who stopped being creative just because they weren't able to reach perfect results, I decided to think of a way to get adults back into painting, and getting the fun of painting without worrying over the results.

So, are you one of those people that has ever said: " I can't paint?" Then I urge you to grab your paintbrushes, and read on! Because I've got news for you: you can! 

And the trick is super simple, even simpler -and more fun!- than painting by numbers. It is to paint over existing photographs.

Is it cheating? Perhaps. But it is a great way to get familiar with shapes and colours, while still getting the guidance from a picture. And a nice way to perhaps translate family photo's into art?

I started by choosing a random image, just something I found in an old National Geographic. I wouldn't choose something on very flimsy paper, but anything else will do! 

just a nice photograph, nothing too special! 

And I just started painting over it. I didn't paint too precise, because I thought an impressionist effect suited the picture more.

Just add some paint!
As you can see above, I started with the darker shadowy sections, because it looks better when you add light over dark than the other way around.

And I just went on! Sometimes making conscious decisions to change things: removing some buildings in the back, or adding darker shadows to create more movement. It's just about playing, it doesn't really matter what you choose to do with it!

You can see that the umbrella's and both gentlemen's faces are still the original painting, while most of the background as well as the lady's beautiful kimono is painted. 

the rules are really simple, and basically apply to this technique of painting as well as to most

  • Adjust colour as you go along: if you just put a little bit of your intended colour on the photograph, you can easily chck if it is the colour you wan or not. And it is a great way to learn that colours are often not the way as we perceive them! Skintones are seldom pink, and skies are usually not blue: you'll probably will add a lot more white,black and brown to your colours that you thought you would. 
  • Unless you are doing aquarel, stay away from water as much as you can: it will destroy the intensity of the paint, and ruin the paper. I only use it to clean the brushes. 
  • Starting with darker colours and layering the lighter ones on top creates a more natural effect. 
  • Adding some highlights when you're almost finished gives extra depth ( as you can see on the shoes, coat and umbrella below)

the couple on the left almost done. 
I used the left side of the magazine as a paint board, just to show you that you don't need fancy stuff for painting. Also, my brushes are the cheapest I could find (dollar store quality) and the paint is very simple acrylic paint. 

Voila! Sure, painting from scratch is probably more creative, original etc etc. But get real folks: most of us just don't have the time or courage to do that, and if this is what it takes to get me (or you!!) into painting, I'll take it. 

It only took me about 30 minutes, so a perfect little creative break. And now I've got plenty ideas of transforming family photo's and things alike. 

Did you like the idea? Is it something you might try as well! love to hear your experiences! 


  1. Your painting looks great! Love this idea.

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