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In the last decade or so, a big sea change has occurred. Photography is now digitally based. We have really pretty much moved away from film-based photography to a world where photography has now accomplished digitally and what that means is you can now bring a photograph into a digital environment like Painter with virtually no issues whatsoever and what happens is the whole idea of a photograph has changed. We used to consider it and think of it as an unchangeable entity and now it's very common to change photographs in many different ways.
Now, when you bring a photograph into Painter, all of a sudden you have got an environment where traditional expressive mark-making tools like brushes, chalks, charcoals, all of those can be affected to the surface of a photograph and all of the imagery that's in that photograph as if it were a wet oil paint. I like to describe it as being able to dip my brush into a photograph and the results can be remarkable and you get this instant melding of traditional expressive handmade movements with the whole idea of a photograph.
So in this chapter, we are going to go ahead and take a look at the theory behind how a photograph is interpreted into a painting, and once we have got those underpinnings, under our belts, then we are going to move along and in the next two chapters, we'll actually take what we have learned and apply it to some imagery. So let's get started. Different visual mediums have, what I refer to as, visual vocabularies. By understanding these vocabularies and in this case, we are talking about photography and painting, you will be better equipped to interpret a photograph into a painted result.
One of the terms I have kind of come up with is interpretation. I refer to restating a photograph into a painting as an interpretation and like language interpretation expressive interpretation, transposes one mediums vocabulary for another, and it's very important to understand that a successful interpretation requires a good knowledge of both the source and destination mediums in order to correctly come up with a result you like. Now, I'm going to start by comparing a pair of images and you can see here the one on the left is a photograph of a Church on the right.
We have a painting by Van Gogh of that same Church in France. Let's start off talking about the photograph. Photography has a very specific elements in its vocabulary that we have all come to learn to associate with the photographic vocabulary itself and looking at this one, you have got things like Sharp Focus. We typically think of a photograph as having sharp focus in it because the camera sees through the lens. It's all about these optics and in general, cameras are made to have very sharp focus.
So it's an element of the camera in photography that successful photographers want to generally use as a vocabulary element within photography. We have also got Depth of Field, now depth of field is selectively focusing on the image. This particular image happens to have a very infinite depth of focus. So everything is in clear sharp focus. But an artistic technique that a photographer can use is to have a shallow depth of field, so that elements in the foreground and the background are thrown out of focus.
What that does is the eye tends to not spend much time looking at this undetailed parts of the image and instead goes and looks at the detailed part of the image. And the third element that I want to talk about that you can see specifically in this photograph is the perspective that seems to be in this image. The lens, the optics of a camera are not subjective, they just see what they were designed to see based on the design of that lens and this rather white angle lens that you may notice all of the lines in the image tend to be going off towards some vanishing point that's positioned high up in the sky.
As a result, you get that what's sometimes referred to as the keystoning effect where the building seems to be getting smaller or diminishing in scale as it moves away from the camera and as part of the vocabulary of photography, we don't tend to notice it when we look at it, but it is there and Painter on the other hand does not look at an image that way. In fact, if we now go over and look at the Van Gogh image, you will see that he didn't see those lines at all. They were there, but think of the way the human vision system looks at an image compared to a camera.
A camera sees it all at once and it records exactly what's coming through the lens at the time that shutter is open. What happens with the human vision system, we are continuously looking, we are moving our eye around, looking at different parts of the image and examining that and as a result we build up a composite image in our mind of what makes up that scene in front of us. So as Van Gogh looked at this, he was not paying attention and in fact he selectively didn't pay attention to that keystoning effect.
It's certainly somewhat visible within the human vision system because we have lenses in our eyes as well. But we selectively ignore that stuff so that we don't even see it and that's what he has done in this case. He did not encode keystoning distortion into his image. Look at other aspects of it. Color for example. There is a very specific color space associated with photography, different film stocks like Kodachrome or EKTA Color. All of the various film stocks that have been out there and even camera sensors today have a certain bias towards color.
When we look at photographic imagery, we tend to read as part of that imagery this encoding of certain colors for example, greens a lot of times are somewhat attenuated in a photograph. So it has it's own kind of basic color space that it works in. Whereas Van Gogh was not constrained by that whatsoever. In fact, he used color very much to portray emotions. Look at that orange spot on the roofline of the Church. My guess is that during the day, he sat there and painted this.
At some point, there was maybe some very bright sunlight hitting the roofline right at that particular spot, if that is I think it is a clay tile roof that may have very much been brilliant orange in his mind at the time. At least his emotional sensation of it was such that he painted it with that brilliant orange. When we compare it to the photograph, yes it's a clay tile roof and yes, they have a tendency to look somewhat orange but I'm sure it was not screaming orange that we are seeing in the painting and yet it doesn't look wrong in the Van Gogh painting because we are reading it as the vocabulary of painting.
Another element of the vocabulary of painting is brush strokes. We see brush strokes throughout the image. In fact the way he did many of these brush strokes particularly in the sky and the grass, they are moving. It's almost as if these waves are living the way in which they have this movement within them. So once again, he is portraying his emotion, his feeling into this painted rendition of the image. So, the vocabulary of painting is very different than the vocabulary of photography and it's really important to note the differences in these vocabularies and one that I can mention that I see many, many times, people will spend all this time using a photograph as a source to paint and when it's all done, you will look at it and it will have some sort of distortion in it like we are seeing in the Church where there is this keystoning effect and right away it's a giveaway because some of the vocabulary of photography is creeping into the painting.
It belies its artistic interpretation. It starts to look as if it does have a photographic element. Another very simple one that you see as if the seascape and you can see the horizon line on the ocean, if it's even just one or two degrees off, we pick that up. We noticed that little bit of crookedness and they will spent a lot of this time doing this really nice painting. But on the other hand, they have got that photographic artifact of the fact that the camera was not entirely level and an artist is never going to paint a seascape with a less than exactly flat horizon line.
So, these are the kinds of things you really need to be aware of in doing this interpretation and the more time you take to look at the vocabulary of photography, as well as the vocabulary of painting, the better equipped you are going to be to be able to make this interpretation to ultimately impart your own expression into your final creation.
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