Thoughts on Painting 5: Fidelity

I teach my students that painting from a photograph is deadly because the only information you have is what’s in the photograph. Sometimes photographs hide detail. You don’t see shadows.

Copying from National Geographic is especially deadly because the editors manipulate the color. The colors are so intense, so beautiful. But that’s not the real place. They make the greens greener, the blue sky bluer. It looks very idyllic. I tell my students, “Don’t copy from National Geographic.”

When you’re painting outdoors, because the sun changes overhead, your light and shadows change. Sometimes when I start a painting, the shadows get better—or they get worse—but I can pick the time of day. As an artist, I can set the time, the angle of the sun, and bring in things that aren’t actually there.