Why You Need to Go Off the Beaten Path for Best Photo References

Acrylic artist Bernie Hubert finds his creative edge traveling the open road. Historic highways lead to inspiration for the artist in the form of old motels, vintage signs and abandoned vehicles. From a lifetime on the road, here are Huberts tips for why you need to travel to get the best shots.

Rt 66 Lasso, Bernie Hubert. Acrylic Artist

Rt 66 Lasso, Bernie Hubert. Acrylic Artist

The Interview

Acrylic Artist: Can you recall how many times you’ve traveled cross-country for inspiration?
Bernie Hubert: I’ve traveled across the United States by car more than 20 times. At first, I just set out to get from here to there—New Jersey to California.

AA: What keeps drawing you back to the road?

BH: There are a lot of images out there just waiting to be painted. For me, it’s historic Route 66 motels and signage. Signs fascinate me—the nostalgia they evoke—even the pain, sorrow and hard winters that these tattered remnants reflect inspire me to capture their essence in my acrylic paintings.

AA: What are your rules of the road with regard to taking photo references for your acrylic art?

BH: Aside from the obvious, such as having a good digital camera and charged batteries, there’s just one primary rule—you must travel alone. It’s kind of like a guy tagging along when his wife is shopping for a purse. He adds no value, and will only annoy her and make her rush. The same goes for open-road photography. You can’t be on the clock because most of the off-ramps and back alleys are dry wells. It’s like panning for gold, you just keep at it and eventually you’ll come up with your reward. You need to be patient and observant and stick with the old adage: you’ll know it when you see it.

Unintended Adventures

AA: Snooping around abandoned places can raise suspicions. Have you ever caught the eye of someone who questioned your motives?

BH: Once, when I was passing through Tucumcari, New Mexico, a great stretch of road for Route 66 lovers, I was trolling slowly through town looking at all the old artifacts—motels and broken neon signs, when I was pulled over by a local police officer. He asked what I was doing, driving so aimlessly. When I told him that I was an artist looking for some imagery he only half believed me. This may have had to do with the fact that I was parked on a dirt lot whose only distinguishing feature was a dilapidated Lasso Motel sign. The motel that accompanied the sign had been scrapped years ago. It wasn’t until I showed the officer some of the images on my camera that he let me continue. The next time I returned to Tucumcari for more trolling the sign was gone, too.

AA: So, in a nutshell—go it alone and be patient and observant while keeping in mind that that you’ll know it when you see it. Anything else to add?

BH: One more thing, take your photos at either 10:00 in the morning or 2:00 in the afternoon for the best sun angle, which, in turn, will create beautiful accent shadows for your images.

Learn More!

Check out this video on painting tree edges and branches!

Get Hubert’s advice on creating successful commissions and a peek at a gallery of his Americana portraits. Bernie Hubert’s art is featured in the Winter 2015 issue of Acrylic Artist —order a copy here.

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