Catching a Wave

Last week I brought up the subject of painting from photographs taken by someone other than the artist. I subscribe to the generally accepted principle that, given a choice, first paint from life, then paint from your own photograph, and lastly paint from the photograph of another only with permission from the photographer.

Painting from photographs, even those you took yourself, can be dangerously stultifying for an artist, but no less an authority than Albert Handell gave me permission to do so after viewing two of mine, which he admired. (Light in the Forest and The Greening of the Forest in May). Nevertheless, some of my personal favorites are ones that I painted en plein air (outside and from life, sort of) and alla prima (all at once without tinkering later in the studio). But sometimes I fall in love with a photograph, and seek permission to paint from it. You can find some examples of that in my album pages “Studio–New Hampshire” and “Eclectic Mix”. But other times, I don’t have enough information or time to get permission, which is what happens when I getting ready for a sitting stint at the Manchester Artists Association Gallery.

I’m no better than the average bear at getting my act together, so most Saturday mornings I am packing my drawing materials for SLG (Saturday Life Group), which runs from 9:30 to 12:30, and my oils for an afternoon of gallery sitting from 1:00 to 4:00. Obviously, a lunch has to be packed too. No time to print out any new photographs to paint from, or contact any photographers for permission to use theirs. So like last week, this week I popped a selection of favorite pages from old Sierra Club calendars in my oil painting backpack.

So that’s my excuse for painting the wave. When you think about it, no wave can really be painted from life. The shapes change too fast. Worse than trying to paint a sunset. I have painted surf en plein air (Rhode Island), and got a lovely feeling or impression of it, but when it comes to anatomizing a wave, you have to have a photograph of it. Once you have painted maybe a hundred waves, you can probably construct one out of your imagination, but this is my first closely observed wave.

As far as the copyright is concerned, I’m hoping that my use of the photograph qualified as “fair use” for educational purposes or that my years of service to the Sierra Club will count for something!

At the Gallery, I could only spend an hour on the wave because I needed to let the thick paint dry a little so that I could more successfully smudge it. Yesterday I spent probably another hour smudging.

But meanwhile, back at the Gallery on Saturday, I had another two hours to kill. I always bring at least two canvases (two 11 x 14’s fit in my pochade box), so I brought out some drawings from SLG. I don’t try this often, in part because the exhibit opportunities for a nude painting, (shorthand for “painting of a nude person”) are few. The general public, it appears, are not ready to see nude paintings in a public space unless the public space is a museum. I had a couple–from two different mornings, so two different models–to choose from:

Here is the resulting painting–I choose the easiest one.

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