Don Rantz on Working with Photos

Although he still tries to get out to paint on location as much as he can, Don Rantz, winner of The Pastel Journal Best of Show Award in the 11th Annual Pastel 100 competition, works primarily in the studio these days. “I’ll work mostly from digital photos,” he says, “which I’m neither proud or ashamed of; it’s just what works right now.” Because he spent his first years of painting working mostly on location, however, Rantz still looks at the landscape with a plein air painter’s eye. “That experience was essential to where I am now,” he says, “because it established a visual vocabulary early on. If you’ve learned how light actually works when you’re looking at it, it’s much easier to work from photos.”

Rantz works directly from his digital images; he doesn’t print anything out, because of the way printing can “flatten things out.” He sometimes refers to the image directly on his computer. “I can get more luminance coming through on the LCD screen,” he explains.  Other times, for the larger paintings, like his award-winning pastel, Home of the Ancients, he uses an LCD projector to project the image all the way across the room of his studio. Then he stands about 12 feet away from the image and paints. “This way, I’m not staring at a picture right in front of me. I still have that disatance,” he says. “It helps me feel like I’m still out there in the world doing it. And I don’t get caught up in all the detail. When you work from a photo or directly off computer screen, it’s easy to get caught up in doing too much detail.”

See more of Rantz’s work below and in the feature about his work in the April 2010 issue of The Pastel Journal, a showcase of all 100 winners of the Pastel 100.

Breaking Through
(pastel, 33×44) by Don Rantz
“This painting shows a dramatic view of Courthouse Rock near Sedona, Ariz., from the slopes of Bell Rock. The broken lighting conditions were fabulous and I managed to capture a few images before getting drenched.”

Catalina Sunset (pastel, 12×36) by Don Rantz
“While visiting a friend in Tucson, I was greeted by this view to the northwest when I arrived at his home in late November, showing the Santa Catalina Mountains lit up by the evening winter sun.”

Autumn Grasses
(pastel, 9×13)
“I have painted Granite Mountain, just outside my home of Prescott, Ariz., dozens of times in all kinds of light. The marsh grasses actually turn this brilliant shade of orange red in the fall after a wet summer.”





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