Make the most of your ref­er­ences

Learn to utilise pho­tos in a brand new way with Miles John­ston, who suc­cess­fully trans­forms his grand­mother into a young fan­tasy fig­ure

ImagineFX - - Issue 108 May 2014 -

Miles John­ston turns his grand­mother young again.

For me, work­ing from imag­i­na­tion is al­ways the end game. I find it the most en­joy­able as­pect of paint­ing and I be­lieve it en­ables you to ex­press yourself the most openly. How­ever, we’re all hu­man and some­times a lack of tech­ni­cal knowl­edge can hold back a paint­ing’s po­ten­tial.

This is when it can be a good idea to use a ref­er­ence im­age, to in­ject fresh in­for­ma­tion into the way you solve is­sues and to in­spire new cre­ative choices – with­out ever re­sort­ing to di­rect copy­ing. I’ve taken a lik­ing to prac­tis­ing this prin­ci­pal by shoot­ing ref­er­ence pic­tures that are to­tally un­re­lated to the sub­ject I’m paint­ing.

I use in­for­ma­tion from the ref­er­ence pic­ture, such as the struc­ture, val­ues, colours or tex­tures, to in­form the way I paint an im­age. I try to make these de­ci­sions in­tu­itively, trust­ing my gut for what I want to take from the pic­ture and what’s unim­por­tant. I find this ap­proach en­ables me to come up with re­sults that are rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from the orig­i­nal pho­to­graph and still flavoured with my own per­sonal tastes, avoid­ing that ob­vi­ously photo-ref­er­enced look.

To demon­strate this idea, I have taken some pho­to­graphs of my grandma wear­ing a hat from a Christ­mas cracker, and I’m go­ing to paint a young elf based on in­for­ma­tion in the pho­to­graph and my own imag­i­na­tion. I sug­gest try­ing the same yourself. Es­pe­cially if you find it dif­fi­cult to draw from imag­i­na­tion, this might act as a use­ful ex­er­cise.

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