Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Way Things Look

I've spent most of my life doing photography. Taking pictures in all sorts of ways and for all sorts of reasons. More lately, one of the things I've come to appreciate about photography is that it allows you, or encourages you, to look at things in an additional way. To consider the thing you're looking at. To analyze it.

I know I'm not alone in this feeling, and I think it's a big part of the reason that a lot of people become immersed and involved with photography as an art and a skill, rather than just as a means to gather keepsakes. It is a formalizing of seeing things. A disciplining.

For what it's worth.

Over the past month or two, I've started painting. Mainly I did this as a way to produce larger outputs. I can't afford a big printer, or lab fees to send stuff out. And that process annoys me anyway. There's too much of bringing in other influences into the work. The lab people, the equipment, the remoteness of it all. But mainly it was the money. I needed a way to produce output for shows and for sale that I could afford. I started by producing segmented prints, on my letter size printer, and stitching those together. I had to get paints to touch up the seams on these stitched prints, and after a few of those, I realized I was painting quite a bit of the image anyway, so why not cut out the intermediate step? So I just started painting the images. It was surprising and delightful how easily this process came to me, but that's the topic of another article, I think.

I'm on my twenty fourth painting now, and I've gotten pretty good at reproducing the image I have in my head. And that's got an additional nice thing about it: I don't have to be able to find a corporeal thing to take a photo of anymore. If I want, I can image something straight out of my imagination. But I've noticed something: I've been looking at other painters, and I notice that most of them have a style. A way of reducing and reproducing things. And I wondered if I should do this. Because what I've been doing is methodically and deliberately trying to be faithful to the image, trying to take myself, my influence of hand and brush-stroke, out of the final output.

So I was thinking about that. And I think that maybe it's a side effect of all that photography. All that time spent reproducing the world. Learning to see things in a certain way. It's led to me having that as my 'style'. So I guess I'll be happy about that and not worry about it. Not worry that my paintings don't look like art. That they look just like my photographs. Because I guess it doesn't matter what the output method is, they're all the result of what I see.

Thanks for reading,

Dave DeHetre

Sunday, April 8, 2012


I've seen several very good tutorials and step by step things on how people do their painting, and I found it useful, so I thought I'd do one to give back in some way.  basically this is going to be a series of pictures as I go along.  possibly  when I'm done I'll spiff it up some.

Add caption

wood panel with stick cradle on the back keeping it flat.  also provides a nice place to hang the thing from.

the wood has a layer of plaster that I sanded flat, but then that's very absorbant, so I had to paint a bunch of layers of paint before it stopped soaking in. you can't do it contiguously (otherwise it starts dragging around wet paint/plaster), so to keep track of where the paint's been, I switch colors at each pass.

once there's a nice surface, painting in something appropriate for a ground color, mostly to cover up the weird camo look from the prior step.

here's the panel ready to paint on.

I like to have something to act as a model, in this case it's a boat in a boathouse.  since I don't really have access to those, I made my own model.  this is a small sailboat out of a chunk of wood and a chopstick and some string.

here's the floor of the boathouse gluing up.

there's the boat with some decorative paint.

boat in room.

painting the room to get correct light behavior.

almost done painting the boathouse...

a few shots playing around trying to get the basic composition and lens settings and so on.

once I got things about right, make a sketch onto the panel.

after some initial thinking/looking, I decided I needed a better model shot, this time I added smoke to the room and put a colored lens (safety glasses yellow) in front of one of the strobes).

colored in the rough sketch.  broadly colors for surfaces, to keep them differentiated more than as final color.

rough pass with black and white.

whiting over the windows on the back wall that I decided didn't look right.

redefined the edges

tweaked the edges so that they looked good to the eye.

a pass with a fine brush 

another fine brush pass

trying to start getting the tones and color right.

balancing out the tones and light levels.  screwed up a few areas, adding detail here and there.

put some color on the floor and developed the light behavior further (sort of ray tracing in my head).

lotta time just doing minor tweaks

another tweaking pass with black white and yellows.  to balance the tones.

adding in the foreground subjects