The Creative Use of Photography

Guest Post by Tim Anderson

Throughout the years I have had my photography used by artists for many purposes: sculpture, painting (from watercolor to oils and just about everything in between), graphic design, etc. It is very gratifying, indeed, to have another artist think enough of your work to want to emulate it.

Irish Waterfall in County Connemara Ireland by Tim Anderson

Waterfall, County Connemara, Ireland 2016, ©Tim Anderson 2016

Such is the case with the first image illustrated here. I took it while on vacation in Ireland recently. It was in  Connemara  along the western coast. It was a day of scenic beauty, no matter where we went. Most of the time in situations like these I photograph what looks good, with little regard to settings, although I do a basic setup before departure for a day of photographing.

While in Ireland I captured almost 3,000 images of landscapes, portraits, birds, ancient ruins, and monolithic remains.  Each evening, back at the hotel, I downloaded the day’s images to my laptop, in the proper folder. I find if I don’t do this daily, I get “lost” immediately when beginning the editing process.

Upon first edit after returning home this image immediately grabbed my attention. Guests who came over for dinner last night agreed by saying it should be a painting. With that in mind I thought I would play with it a bit.

I took it into Photoshop and played with a few filters, and finally settled on the second image in the post. The filters were canvas and splatter. I could have spent much more time on it, but I was just playing, trying to see with a painter’s eye.

Irish Waterfall by Tim Anderson, edited

Waterfall, County Connemara, Ireland 2016, ©Tim Anderson 2016, edited

Well, what do you think? I have often said that to be an artist is a multi-disciplinary creative pursuit and that some of the best artists see much more than the “normal” person. If you are a painter and you view the photography of a friend, do you envision what you could do with that same print?

If not, you might want to try it.

Impressions of Ireland

I have been going through all of the images that my partner Tim Anderson took while we were in Ireland. It helps that he is a professional photographer. He did all of the work, I just soaked up what I was seeing a experiencing. With every photo I am taken back to that spot and the way I felt while being there.

photo showing waves and ocean

Photo by Tim Anderson of the Atlantic

Although there were indeed 40 shades of green, we spent much of our time on the west coast near the Atlantic so there were also many shades of blue. I have seen the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic, but the waters on the Irish Atlantic were very vivid and distinct.

Sketch showing Ireland.

Ann Hart Marquis-Painting sketch, acrylic on paper.

There were also shades of red and orange and tones of violet. Those colors were lovely also, but they didn’t impact me like the blues and greens.

I saw many places like stone circles and standing stones and 12th century abbeys, where grey stone was the predominate color. I haven’t processed grey as possibilities for a painting, but I like the idea of using greys and tones of color.

This week I have finally had a chance to do a little sketching with paint to just get a feel for what colors would come out. I played with many colors, just letting my imagination take over without doing any pre-planning. I felt like I was painting my impressions of Ireland. I like that feeling. I like to pick up a paint brush and just start putting down color.

Picture showing expressions of Ireland.

Ann Hart Marquis-Impression of Ireland, acrylic on paper.

I still went for layering paint the way that I have been doing. I do like to see under colors peeking through. The paint sketches in this post are a start to bigger paintings that I hope to get to soon.

Irish Color

We just got back from Ireland. I am full of images of Irish color, cliffs, water, trees and too many other sights to name. I just soaked it all in. Although I didn’t take my paints, one of the things on which I concentrated was color. It was indeed so green. They were vivid, intense greens.

photo describing Irish Green

Irish Green

I have a tendency to paint with a more muted palette, so I am not sure yet how I will translate these images onto the canvas. I plan to start trying this week.

picture of Irish Green

Irish Green

If I was still at a place where I wanted to paint landscape, Ireland was the place to see. But I am an abstract landscape painter, so it is all a mystery to me at this time because I haven’t started to think about mixing paint. There is still a part of me that is processing all that I experienced there.

photo showing Irish Yellow Green

Irish Yellow Green

Ireland was magical and spiritual for me. Part of the reason that I found it so compelling was the beauty, but since we visited many megalithic sites, I was captivated by the mysteries of how and where people lived and expressed their creativity 5-6 thousand years ago.

photo showing Irish Red color.

Irish Red

Ireland is also being overwhelmed with invasive rhododendrons. Since they are so lovely, people don’t seem to mind these invaders.

photo of Irish Rhododendrons

Irish Rhododendrons

So you may be able to tell that I have no idea what I will paint when I am completely back from Ireland.

Leaving for Ireland

Tomorrow, I will be fulfilling a dream that I have had for a long time. I am leaving for Ireland for three weeks. The trip will consist of four days in Dublin, five days driving around the south and then twelve days touring the west coast.

photo showing how it feels leaving or Ireland

Dublin

I have had a provocative relationship with Ireland for many years. It has been calling to me through books, movies and stories for at least two decades. I am adopted and it was about that long ago that I found out that my father was Irish.

I have put the trip on the back burner for a long time, but about six months ago I decided it was time to go.

photo showing part of Ireland

Dingle on the west coast

So this will be part soul journey for me, part just exploring a very interesting culture and being curious how the wet and green environment there will influence my painting.

I really want to pay attention to ancient symbols and figures that I will see. I want to look at Irish art, the landscape, the sea and the cliffs. It will be a total contrast to New Mexico.

Newgrange is part of Ireland

Newgrange, built about 4000 BC.

I don’t plan to paint while I am there. I just want to absorb everything that is around me. And I want to be an adventurist.

The photos on this page are some of the sites I will be visiting.

This will be my last post until I get back in June. I will let you know how it went.

The Metaphor of Ladders

I have a thing for ladders. I am not as intrigued by ladders as much as I am by trees, but I do find it somehow fulfilling to paint a ladder. I have done it many times, and have found myself thinking about painting another ladder or perhaps incorporating it into a painting.

painting depicting a ladders at night.

Red Ladder at Night, acrylic on canvas, 16×20 inches, 2006.

So being a curious person and liking to do research, I set out to investigate their symbolic meaning.

The first article I read suggested the ladder is rich in symbolism and metaphor. The horizontal rungs represent progressively higher levels of consciousness and the two vertical uprights, represent the symbol for duality.

painting showing how a ladders are used.

Waiting for the Lion—Viewpoint, acrylic on canvas, 16×20 inches, 2010.

According to Josepk Panek, since the ladder has no moving parts, it symbolizes ascension by way of personal desire and effort. “The Ladder also reminds us that reaching the highest realms of consciousness is not a short, swift journey. Each rung represents a gradual ascent whereby wisdom, knowledge, enlightenment and perfection are earned by us one step at a time.”

a painting showing a ladders leaning on a tree.

Precarious, acrylic on canvas, 20×24 inches, 2011.

Well, I have to say that my journey upward has been long and slow. Before I started painting I read about Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I think it influenced my journey to becoming a more aware, perceptive and perhaps even a more creative person. When I first learned about the theory, I was probably struggling to get to the third level. I spent a great deal of time in the second rung. Today I like to think that I am integrating the top level, but i suspect that is a life-long project.

chart showing ladders of needs

Maslow’s Hierarchyof Needs

Creative Transition

When I am in the middle of painting a series, I sometimes need to use my imagination in another way. I need a break, a creative transition. Doing something completely different takes me away from my current work and becomes a breather from the ideas that I have been working on for weeks.

I took a break recently and began looking at photographs that I had taken in France over the years.  Maybe I could paint one of them or abstract them in some way.

One evening in Soréze, I took some photos of the house across the street that I thought looked intriguing. The evening light was lovely and the house was covered with interesting shadows. Maybe this would be one to paint. Here’s the original color photo.

Unmanipulated color photograph showing creative transition

Unmanipulated color photograph

Instead, I decided to do something that I had never done before. I decided to see what I could do playing around with an image on my computer. There are many image-editing software programs that are available to us. Probably the most sophisticated is Photoshop. I tried it before and found the learning curve for me included much more time than I wanted to give. I am a painter.

But I do have an easy-to-use image editing software program called Perfect Photo Suite 8. I use it to re-size my painting images for use on the web.

So I took that photo that I had taken at dusk and decided that it had possibilities. It had shuttered windows, was three stories and had interesting architecture.

manipulated photographshowing creative transition

Evening in Sorèze, manipulated photograph

Here is the photo after I translated it into something that I thought could possibly pass for a painting.

What do you think? Have you ever tried something like this?

Painting Poppies on the Hill

California state’s flower is the golden poppy.  Native Americans cherished the poppy as both a source of food and for oil extracted from the plant. Its botanical name, Eschsholtzia californica, was given by Adelbert Von Chamisso, a naturalist who arrived in San Francisco in 1816 surrounded by hills of the golden flowers. Also sometimes known as the flame flower, la amapola, and copa de oro (cup of gold), the poppy grows wild throughout California. It became the state flower in 1903.

I grew up in the country there. On the rise behind our house was a rolling hill much like all of the other soft rolling hills in northern California. One of my earliest memories was of a spring day when I was about 4 years old. I had wandered away from the house drawn by all the beautiful gold that I could see in the hill. I knew the gold was flowers, but I was mesmerized by the color.

I remember sitting in the middle of this thickly-covered field of golden poppies. I was delighted and it was perhaps one of my first joyous experiences. I remember how delicate they were and how some were fully open and some were wrapped tightly. I remember their fragrance. They fascinated me. I have been in love with poppies since that time.

Painting Poppies

example of painting poppies on a hill

Remembrance of Poppies, acrylic and ink of canvas, 30×30 inches.

I have been thinking about painting poppies for a long time. Last week I decided to paint that hill and that experience. I started like I have been doing lately with many layers of background color. Before I started adding a field of golden poppies as I had planned, I realized that there were so many poppies in my memories that I would soon have an abstract orange painting.

That is not what I had in my mind. It wasn’t capturing the feeling that I wanted so I decided to limit my poppies to make them and the painting more symbolic to me. The above painting is what evolved. The photograph below is how I remember the hill:

photo of poppies for a painting.

California poppies

My Struggle with the Horizon Line

I consider myself an abstract landscape painter. As I lean more toward the abstract, I find myself struggling to completely give up the horizon line. As I looked at many abstract landscapes, I would say that about 95% have included one.

So I am wondering in landscape paintings, do people have a psychological need to see the horizon line? I spent about two hours trying to find some hint of information about why we like to see that line, but I could find nothing.

In defining this line, a common definition is that it is an imaginary horizontal line, sometimes referred to as eye level, which divides your line of vision when you look straight ahead.

Here is one of my paintings with an obvious horizon line.

painting show where the horizone line is.

Opposition, acrylic on canvas, 24x24x1.5 inches.

Objects below this line are below your eye level, and objects above this line are above your eye level. Artists supposedly draw horizon lines to accurately establish perspective in their work.

Perceived Horizon Line

According to the Creative Glossary, “It is not necessary to include the horizon line in a landscape.  However, it is important to include a ‘virtual’ horizon line in order to make a picture follow correct perspective. The horizon line is always one’s eye level.  If one draws a line perpendicular to the ground outwardly from one’s eye level, this is what is considered the horizon line.”

Then there is this thought: “Be careful not to confuse skyline with horizon line. Skyline is also where the sky and land meet, but is generally in reference to mountains which are almost always above the actual horizon line/eye level.” 

Skyline as Opposed to Horizon Line

Skyline as Opposed to Horizon Line

Here is an abstract landscape painting by Joan Fullerton. Can you see the perceived horizon line or where eye level is?

showing how to paint a perceived line

Aspen Textures, Joan Fullerton

How about this one by Stuart Shils. Where is eye level?

Stuart Shils Landscape

Stuart Shils Landscape

Where am I going with this? I don’t know. I am getting rather left-brained about this topic, but it is something that I need to continue thinking about. When you create a painting or look at a painting are you aware the horizon line or where eye level is? I would love to know what you think?

My Love Affair with Painting a Pear

showing how painting a pear is done

Pear on the Horizon, acrylic on wood panel, 11×14 inches.

I have a little love affair with painting a pear. It shows up in various places, like teaching for example.

I teach a painting class at the University of New Mexico Continuing Education Department for complete beginners. I teach it every quarter. Because almost all of the students are actually beginners, I start by having them mix colors and I talk about the definition of value. I also have them paint something round to begin their process about shape and perspective.

showing how painting a pear is done

Walnut and Pears, acrylic on canvas, 16×20 inches.

I frequently choose a pear for them to paint because they are much more interesting than a banana or a melon or a baseball, for example. I like pears because they come in quirky shapes and have lovely “hips” to add interest to a painting, and I always pick a pear with a special stem.

painting a pear in France

French Pears, acrylic on canvas, 16×20 inches.

This week as always in the class, I start the pear assignment by doing a demonstration of how I paint a pear. It is usually a successful assignment for all students and I think it is a good focus for the first class.

The task includes choosing the complementary color of the pear that I brought. This week the pear was yellow/green and the background was red/violet. It is an easy assignment.

We didn’t have time to finish the background so that was the homework, including home work for me. I am in the middle of another painting, but finishing my pear painting turned into a very relaxed meditation. I have painted many pears, but I especially liked the shape of my drawing. Here is my version of the class assignment:

example of painting a pear for a class

Pear, 9×12 inches, acrylic on canvas board.

Everything felt just right and there was no stress about inspiration like there can be with a series that I am working on. I was just pleasurable. I find that painting things that I have painted before, that I may never sell, is just pure delight.

Richard Diebenkorn and Micaceous Iron Oxide

When I came across rules written by Richard Diebenkorn, one of my favorite artists, I identified with them immediately. I also found it quite moving that these were rules for himself and were only discovered in his studio after his death.

Diebenkorn rules—Note to myself on beginning a painting:

  1. Attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.
  2. The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued—except as a stimulus for further moves.
  3. Do search. But in order to find other than what is searched for.
  4. Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.
  5. Don’t “discover” a subject—of any kind.
  6. Somehow don’t be bored—but if you must, use it in action. Use its destructive potential.
  7. Mistakes can’t be erased but they move you from your present position.
  8. Keep thinking about Pollyanna.
  9. Tolerate chaos.
  10. Be careful, but only in a perverse way.

I especially like rules number 1 and 10.

Micaceous Iron Oxide 

Micaceous Iron Oxide

I first attempted what was not certain by covering a piece of hard board with micaceous iron oxide which I had not used before. It is a very dark medium and it is very gritty, like sandpaper.

I am rarely very careful, so that was not a problem. I just layered on the medium to see what would happen.

I decided to paint a tree because I don’t have to discover how to paint a tree. I have painted many (rule #5).

The acrylic paint went on the micaceous iron oxide in mysterious ways, needing more than one layer of one color and fewer of another. As you can see (Shadows), the under layer was quite absorbent. I like the darkness of the finished painting and I will do another soon.

I love the results and I loved trying to be Pollyanna, which I rarely am.

Here is the final result.

painting showing effects of micaceous iron oxide

Shadows, acrylic on micaceous iron oxide on hardboard, 7×8 inches, matted to 14×18 inches, framed

Do you identify with any of Diebenkorn’s rules?