A good painter and friend of mine, Ines Kramer
, told me she likes to take bad photographs. She actually plans a few long distance trips each year just to take them. I thought she was just being self effacing, until I realized the full impact of what she was saying. Ines uses the photos in her work, by photoshopping them, cutting them up and collaging them onto a surface as an underpainting, and then adds paint on top sometimes obliterating the images, often changing their shape, color, etc. She said that if the photographs are too good she doesn’t feel as free to change them. A good photo keeps her from adding her own ideas, while a bad photo just asks to be changed, rearranged, and given personality. Another artist friend of mine, Martha Kennedy
, paints beautiful landscapes with (as she puts it) “mouth-watering colors”. She showed me her photographs she uses as reference. They are really downright BAD! I mean, these are photos with no contrast that look like the camera missed the boat on light exposure. These are the ones I would throw away. The difference between her paintings and the original photo are so vast that it’s hard to even imagine a connection. When I look at her work, the colors are truly “mouth-watering”. (By the way, even Martha’s car is painted a mouth-watering apricot – very cool). I was just pondering these strange methods from my friends, as I spent the last two days in my studio going through piles of photographs I had taken over the years, to get some new ideas. One of my favorite things to do is to take some time to look at images and recrop in new ways. I have a scissors nearby and cut up parts of photos that I shot, and combine them with other parts of other photos – sort of mixing up images to create some new ideas. I kept gravitating towards the beautiful photos. Photos from the Bosque del Apache, a bird reserve in New Mexico, with gorgeous sunsets, skies and mountains – just bursting with beautiful color palettes. I only went for the GOOD photos. But while painting from them, it’s a bit more difficult to change what already works so well. I find myself in a “copy” mode – instead of using the skimpy weak references, like my buddies, which beg for more. I see that when there’s something missing in the photo, it just begs us to add our own inspiration.