Choosing A Good Photo Reference

This is actually a follow up of an earlier post (4-27-18).  I decided to rework the painting since every time I looked at it the rocks didn’t look right.  When I started on it, I thought I would just be painting a simple waterfall with some mist.  The problem was that the photo reference had rock cliffs with rugged rock shapes that were difficult to form and that I were hard to visualize.   I have seen waterfalls, but not quite like this one!  It was a friend’s photo and she lives in another state!


The colors were not too exciting,  but I was confident I could paint this scene.   I proceeded to take out the overhanging branch and raised the waterfall.   From the black and white photo it looked like only a few values to work with and a palette of just a few  colors would do the trick.


I did a small notan and it looked like I was starting off on the right foot with a 5 value sketch.  Then I lightly brushed the composition outline with thin burnt umber onto the canvas.


The waterfall and pond were turning out okay, but the ROCKS!  I didn’t follow my notan values, a big ‘NO NO’!  First time to ever do something like that. .  . because I thought I could paint rocks easily.  One side was painted lighter where the sun was hitting and darker on the opposite side.   But the rocks weren’t looking right and became boring-looking boulders!


From dark rocks to lighter boulders, the painting was back to dark again with some hint of sunlight on one side, but the rocks lost their form and were flattened out.   I was determined to not leave the painting in such a sad state.  The last photo shows some light added back in and an attempt to have irregular shapes of contrast, and I also added more foliage in the background.   I think I may have saved my painting, but what do you think?  And I’ve learned a lesson about paying closer attention to following value sketches that serve to help me improve my compositions and color work.

We artists stick ourselves out.  This in itself deserves respect.  (Robert Genn)