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One of the basic things that is important in interpreting a photograph into a painting is to get rid of all of the photographic detail in the painting, and having worked with many photographers in various workshops, I can tell you this is one of the hardest things for a photographer to let go of. This is the mainstay of their vocabulary in their particular art. High detail is something that they've spent years getting good at and then to tell them, "you've got to remove all that," seems just totally counter to their very strong knowledge of the vocabulary of photography.
So I'm going to go through an image and we are going to start and talk a little bit about this photographic detail and then we are going to break this image down and go through the key steps of translating it or interpreting it into a painting. So looking at this image, right away you have got two of the big vocabulary elements of photography. You've got sharp focus. Look how clean and clear the subject eyes are. You can even see the beads of sweat around the eyes and the face so that you get sense of this being a heated situation.
Even the hairs on his sideburns are very much in focus. But then we get to the rifle that he is holding and it's out of focus. That's because very shallow depth of field was employed here to focus on the eyes. If the rifle stock and the hammer on there were as in sharp focus as the eyes, this image would lose some impact. We need that element, the rifle in there to get a sense of what activity this person is engaged in, but we don't need it so much that it becomes as important.
What's important here is the intent and gaze of this soldier's eyes as he is theoretically in battle. So what we need to do right away is delete all of this high detail and I know it's hard to do, especially for photographers that may be listening, but it's crucial. One thing I'll say though is we are going to be looking at nondestructive photo painting. And doing so in that kind of environment or even in the auto-cloning environment, you always have access to the original detail and it's important to remember that, because as long as you realize I can always get back to what I lost in the process, then there is always the ability to work without fear.
So that you know I can do this and I've got a safety net in place, if I need to, that original detail is there. And as we'll see later on that's actually important to take advantage of. So let's start by de- constructing this photograph. The very first thing that has to happen is you must be wiling to destroy the detail. So I go into the image and very quickly not with a lot of thinking too much about it, I completely stroke over the image. You can see there is some play of the different facets of the image that some strokes will follow.
But at this point it's really not as important to delineate the subject as much as it is to remove that detail. Once you remove the detail, you are going to start to rebuild it back in, but with a painting vocabulary rather than a photographic vocabulary. That's the key to doing this. Starting all the way down to the lowest level. The rough underpainting. It's kind of backwards, because in traditional painting you start with nothing and you build up from an underpainting that's very loose and slowly build it up with detail to its final result.
Here in this world, we are starting with the most highly detailed version of an image you can have, the photograph, and we have to start by eradicating that detail and then bringing it back. So it's a little backwards from the traditional technique, but it's how you get to the final result that you are looking for. So I've gone in here and I have just started to kind of play with the colors of the image and start to add a little bit of texture in there and once again, I'm trying to get this away from its pure photographic color. I want to add even more kind of distressing of the image to take it away from its photographic origins.
No I'm going in and I'm starting to apply more of the vocabulary of painting. I've gone in with a very kind of coarse fine brush apply to his eyebrows and I've let a little bit of the canvas start to show through on various techniques. I'm starting to apply little highlights on the gunstock and the hammer to start to put a little bit more detail back in there. Same with the hat he is wearing, and that's a word I'm going to be using quite a bit here. A photograph captures every detail equally. No subjectivity.
A Painter selectively brings that back in. And I often refer to this as indicating. An artist does not paint every leaf on a tree, they will generally block in the shadow highlight areas of a tree and then they will selectively place a few well-placed strokes that give the eye enough information to make the viewer feel like they are seeing more than they are. It's kind of a connect-the-dots trick. And the mind delights in this connect the dots when you can present an image that presents just enough information that the brain has to engage in this connect the dots activity to make itself think it's seeing more than is there, the brain likes that.
So it's part of what engages the viewer into a painting. Now I have actually applied the surface of painting to this, so where the canvas we've shows through, the brush stroke on the canvas. So once again and even more of the vocabulary of painting has been applied to this so that at this point we've pretty much altered the photograph into a painted result. We can see here, if we compare them side- by-side, you can see on the left, there is the full photographic version of this image and on then on the right side we've converted it or in this case interpreted it into a painted result.
And you can see that it's not recognizing one for the other, but the vocabulary of the original photograph has now been interpreted into a painting by introducing all of the elements and vocabulary elements of photography using the photograph as a source. So this is the basic technique of destroying detail and then selectively bringing it back through painting tools. So you must destroy detail.
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