There are many tools painters would not part with—two being the camera and reference photos. Reference photos allow artists to take a second, third even tenth look at an element to be painted. Photo manipulation, be it on the computer screen or as rudimentary as cutting and pasting, frees us to arrange elements in a way to create a composition we find most pleasing. We asked acrylic artist Bernie Hubert to walk us through his mental cutting and pasting of photographic elements to create Andy’s Rodeo (acrylic on canvas, 20×24).
In his own words, the painting of Andy’s Rodeo by Bernie Hubert.
I painted Andy’s Rodeo for a friend of mine who grew up in Tennessee and still has a bit of cowboy in him. I’ve done my share of creative manipulation where the painting’s composition required enhancement and rearranging of elements to achieve the ideal final scene. With these two photo references I was able to study the details of that day at the rodeo—the bull, cowboys, gates—and incorporate the few requests from Andy to create a painting that is accurate in its details with an imagined composition.
I was asked to use the background from photo A because it was far more interesting, with cowboys and onlookers, and the bull from photo B where he appeared much more attractive, and powerful. As for the cowpoke himself, Andy requested image A because it complimented him. After studying the two pictures, I coupled Andy’s upper torso from photo A and his lower torso from B. The background is from photo A and the last switch was the blue plaid shirt from photo B to replace the shirt in photo A.
Confusing, maybe. But once you start to examine the individual elements in each reference photo and pull out the details that are most desirable—a body position here, a shirt there, a crowd member from one photo but the bull from the other photo—in your mind, the chosen elements start to coalesce into a set mental image. So, when you refer to your reference photos you are simply looking at elements, not the entire image.
To round out the painting I gave the bull a nice set of horns, and added a couple of cowboys standing around to give the painting balance. I also decided that since Harps grocery chain and Baxter Labs sponsored the event, I replaced the dull signage in photo A with their logos to add some color.
The take away from what I am sharing with you about painting Andy’s Rodeo is to take as many reference photos as you can. The photos don’t have to be great (we are not photographers by trade) you are simply capturing moments, elements, shapes and lines to reference later. Liken it to paint colors. We don’t have to use the color straight from the tube, in fact we seldom do, we mix them. It’s the same with photography elements.