Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Using References or Not?

I wanted another sunflower painting, so I created one.  I was actually more interested in the pot or vase.  I had no reference.  I'm not in the habit of using any references for my paintings, but can imagine how much easier it would be if I had one.  I've watched other artists use their gallery of photographs, and manage to create an image that speaks more than the photograph.  I've also seen artists paint a photograph so exact, it might as well be an enlarged photo.  There is always something else to discover in the world of painting, no matter what the source of inspiration.  

I admire photographers, they have a much more difficult job to find, notice, and then photograph a pleasing image.  Then there are some that work magic with Photoshop.  It's all I can do to take the digital photos of my artwork, not get too much glare, hold the camera steady, and then transfer it to my computer.  Then, I also have to find it in the maze of files.  I do need to arrange the files better .... someday.  

The above oil is 18 x 18.  Working within a square has definitely been a challenge.  I thought this piece was done ... but after viewing the photo, I can see all the small things I can improve ... yet then ... I like my work to look like a painting, not a photograph.  It's just a personal preference  I've studied sunflowers.  The ones in the painting are not the "seed eating" variety.  We grew acres of those at times on our farm for cattle feed, and to brighten up the neighborhood.  One field was along the road, and there were always photographers present with tripods, people stopping just to look, and we knew it was special when wedding parties came to take pictures.  The flowers were all taller than 7' at a minimum, it was amazing to walk along the edge of a field and look up at the huge faces looking down once they were ripe.  Before ripening, they would turn with the movement of the sun.  Hang them upside down once they're cut, and the birds have a feast.  We found they weren't the best ingredient for cattle feed, but that's where the majority of them went, right into the bunker silo.  I have a wall hanging in my home of those, something I painted on fabric and sewed into a cloth frame.  

 This was inspired by an early  morning walk, the moon had not set yet.  I'm reminded of the scent of the flowers, the colors, and coolness of the air, clear skies and the waters of the river gently lapping on the bank.  The path was between the river and the edge of the field.  

This has hung in my house for several years now.  I was looking at it as a was writing, and having my camera handy and charged up, I took a quick photo and have included it here.  The size is approximately 24 x 40.  It is not as bright as one painted on canvas.  The oil paint seeps into the fabric, runs, and pretty much acts like watercolor.  The final product is quite soft.  The photo is a bit light, but then I'm not a professional with a camera.  

The flowers were well above my head, and having the moon visible was quite a treat.  

Back to the studio, there's a canvas waiting. 


  1. Wonderful renderings of sunflowers; you know them well. Love the dark background in your recent piece.
    Isn't it exhilarating to know "there's a canvas waiting"?

  2. Wow, Jennifer! Your painting is quite different from the last time I saw it. It would have been fun to see you through the entire process. All your sunflowers are lovely. I enjoyed reading about your farm. I could just visualize it...