Designing from Photographs (Part I of II)

March 21, 2011 2 min read

Ratindra Das, Painting a Personal Reality in Watercolor, is a Dolphin Fellow and a signature member of both the American Watercolor Society and National Watercolor Society. This week Ratindra will share a few examples of  how he approaches reference photos. Check back for Part II on Friday. And with that, take it away Ratindra!    Watercolor video-DVD with Ratindra Das by Creative Catalyst 

Watercolor video-DVD with Ratindra Das by Creative Catalyst


A photograph on a clear day may look something like Image A. There is too much going on to create a strong painting. However, if I outline the shapes, you'll notice that despite being a bit busy, the photograph has a nice design.

 Watercolor video-DVD with Ratindra Das by Creative Catalyst

Here (image C) I’ve blocked in the lights and darks according to the photograph. It’s better but lacks strength. If lights and darks don't help, I next turn to simplification. Strong paintings don't require a lot to be going on. They just need the right stuff to be going on.  Image D shows further simplification of the masses and values while Image E shows lights and darks are modified and simplified for the sake of design. Notice also how I've begun adjusting how much water I want to show on the right side of the design. As the artist, I can do that! (And so can you!) The sketch now reflects a full control of the design.


Watercolor video-DVD with Ratindra Das by Creative Catalyst

Image G is a more abstracted design. The degree of abstraction is up to the artist. This sketch retains a little resemblance to the photograph, but it is getting away from what we call "realism."

Watercolor video-DVD with Ratindra Das by Creative Catalyst


Now take a look at the final painting (Image H.) You could look at this and still see the reference photo even if it is a bit different. However, look at Image I and Image J and see just how far I can push the abstraction. This is what makes art fun!


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