Updated: Mar 17, 2019
Waking with coffee and my wife on the corner of the couch trying to get my son out the door for school, we could not ignore the sunrise. A glorious blend of vanilla lavender swirl with electrified fuchsia. The breaking light through the dining room window gave us reason to pause. My son Xavier suggested "Dad you should take a picture and paint that." Half jokingly I replied "I'm taking a mental picture." To which my wife, Shannon, quipped, "All you do is paint from pictures...", a salvo fired across the port bow of the USS Imagination. I didn't find the comment particularly offensive and hardly dignified it with a response. I didn't feel the need to remind her of the surreal allegorical paintings that I've done throughout my twenties, including the wedding mural I did on Japanese paper that took me 4 months to paint, coming from dozens of composite sketches. Oh, and there's the RPS catalog that's 98% out of my head (remaining 2% customers customized request).
However, it did make me think about how we can use photo references to make art. How our phones can be tools to capture specific moments that inspire us.
"Roc Stratus 1 "
by Bobby Padilla
Even with the immediacy, what's next? Do you run it through any number of your phone's built in filters? Altering it before you share it with the people close to you. There's apps that transform your snapshot into a drawing, or let you "paint" over your picture.
Thus that's what a reference is, a starting point. It's what inspired yo compelled you to do something mildly creative. All that we ingest visually that stimulates us is food that nourishes our minds and souls. Inspiration then is the ethereal flatulence that hangs in the air for a brief moment...then disappears. The work begins where the inspiration ends.
So starting from a photo gives me the basics. Composition and form with notes of colors and textures that compelled me to click the "shutter" in the first place. I, as most artists then interpret, relate and sometimes transmogrify the subjects into art. As I "work from a photo" I rely less on the details of the photo and focus more on my interpretation of that photo. The final hours are spent on the painting without any dependency of the original pic, making an interesting stand alone work of art.
"Roc Stratus 2"
by Bobby Padilla
When I'm teaching a party, my instruction tends to reflect this philosophy. Every class tends to start with painters having that "deer in the headlights" look. Bobbleheading back and forth between what I'm doing and how they interpret those instructions. I take a lot of breaks. This allows me to circulate the room to speak to and encourage the process of the painters.
Inevitably, with my words and (couple of drinks), people begin to feel more comfortable. They look less at what I'm doing and focus more on what they've done, for better or worse. I always try to remind them that it's really more a party with paint! It's ok if yours doesn't look like mine. You're different and bring a whole different set of life experiences to the table along with that bottle of Cab-Sav. And not to mention, I've done this painting a dozen times already, so go easy on yourself.