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Photo to Painting

How to use a photo reference in your art?

I’ve been working on a couple commission pieces over the past few weeks. Although my starting point were reference photos, I got complete artistic freedom over the commissions. In today’s blog post I’ll show you my studio process of one of these paintings—how to use a photo reference in your art?

Choose composition-2Strategy: Analyzing photo
Before I start painting I crop the photo thoughtfully, asking myself: What is the main subject? What painting format is best for the subject (square, rectangle, portrait or landscape)? What are interesting elements?

The cat is the main subject, so I decided that a portrait orientation would be the best format for this subject. Furthermore, I like the relaxed gaze and the elevated position of the cat, the coat colors and pattern, the bright and green color of the Taxus Baccata (English yew) and the red-violet color of the bush in the left corner.

Concept: Color and Composition
In the next step I make some quick sketches of both the composition—to get the balance right—and the color scheme. It’s a challenge to create your own interpretation and composition of the subject.

I picked out a blue background color and a purple color for the top of the column to make the cat pop out. To make the composition more interesting I added some greens in the background. I also see some bright yellow ochre/raw sienna in the coat of the cat, which made me decide to tone my paper yellow ochre.

It’s time to paint
Now that I figured out the composition and the color scheme, it’s time to paint!

Enjoy my visualization of Sem the Cat!

Comments 6

  1. EJ

    Great painting! Fantastic to see Sem painted as how he really was, a proud cat overseeing the world, beautiful!

  2. Vivian

    It looks even more real and active in the painting than the photo! Love this beautiful work!

  3. Simone Li

    Thank you for reading my blog and all the positive comments I’ve received!! @ EJ @ Vivian @ GvdW

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