More than 5,300 artists entered one, two, or three works of art in the contest sponsored by American Artist and Utrecht art supplies, and I was one of the three judges that selected the award winners. It was both a challenging and rewarding experience, and I discovered some incredibly talented artists to profile in upcoming issues of our magazines.
by Neal Hughes, oil, 16 x 20. Private collection.
This painting was selected as "Best of Show" in
the Utrecht 60th Anniversary Art Competition.
While marking the contest entries on a scale from 1 to 10, I did take note of the great number of drawings created from photographs. How do I know the artists worked from photographs? There are three telltale signs. First, there is usually a stiff, mechanical look to artwork that is slavishly copied from a photograph. That’s because the artists feel obligated to draw every line exactly as it is in the snapshot. Second, the drawings lack subtle midtone values because photographs tend to exaggerate the contrast between lights and darks—soft grays either turn to bright white or deepen to become part of dark shadows. Third, the drawings are overloaded with details that distract attention from the center of interest. That’s because when painting from a photograph, we feel obligated to draw every tooth on that smiling face and every tree in the background.
So what can artists do when they are forced to work from photographs because they can’t hire models or travel to picturesque locations? The answer is for artists to recognize the problems that can come from drawing everything the camera records and to approach the creative process as if they were looking at the real subject. We aren’t likely to count all the teeth when a live model poses for us, and we don’t see every branch on the tree when we are outside drawing. Those are some of the recommendations included in a free article you can download from our website simply by joining our community of artists: www.artistsnetwork.com. This free, downloadable article is the first in an informative series offering advice, lists of materials, special techniques, solutions to common problems, and recommendations for making significant progress. You won’t want to miss all this valuable, free content, so sign up today!