Use of Photos in Painting

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Use of Photos in Painting

From Tim Barr and Kara Lysandra Ross

Published before 2005


Dear Chairman,

I've been reading some of the reasons that artists don't allow the use of photos in their painting process. They call it a cheat and a poor substitute for the real thing. Here is my point:
Cheat - defined-act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage, esp. in a game or examination.
Hinderance- defined-a thing that provides resistance, delay, or obstruction to something or someone.

If it is true that a photo (or any outside influence other than direct drawing from nature by the artist) acts as an inferior way to portray nature as an artist, should it not be called a hinderance and not a cheat as applied to the painting process?

Yours in humble need of answers
-Tim Barr

Hi Tim,

It depends how it is being used. In someways it can be considered cheating in that if used in a projection method and traced, it removes the need for the artist to find the correct contours themselves and work out the visual problems of changing from 3d to 2d. In other ways it is a hinderance in that you are now letting a camera lens define what you are looking at and therefore limit your artistic choices to what the camera perceives versus the human eye.

Photography can also be used as a helpful reference tool as long as it is not too heavily relied upon in the work as a whole.

Photography is probably the most controversial subject among realist painters today and one that should be open to debate and discussion.

All the best,
Kara Lysandra Ross
Director of Operations
www.artrenewal.org