Last night I delivered a presentation at Macarthur Photographic Society, where I was a member from 1986 – 2014.
As I have for the past few years focused my attention on Painting and Sketching, I was asked if I could deliver a presentation on the similarities and differences between Photography and Painting.
As a foundation for the discussion take was to take place in the second half of the presentation – (after intermission) on the similarities and differences, I spoke about my journey in Photography, and showed some images across Slides, (Film) Monochrome and D
I then explained, ‘why I changed from Photography to Painting’ a few years back, which involved several reasons. (I will post about this at a later date). Following the reasons, I showed examples of my Paintings, two Oil and one Watercolour Line & Wash.
After intermission, I moved onto the similarities, and then the differences between Photography & Painting which brought interesting discussion. Again, I will post about these in a separate post.
I finished the presentation talking about future projects in both Painting and Photography.
As I was compiling the presentation I learnt a lot! It is a fascinating subject and I’m sure I will modify it as time goes on.
I love the freedom Sketching and Painting gives me.
One basically starts off with no image on canvas or paper. You might have an image in mind and then you set about creating it from your imagination or a memory, or indeed a combination of both.
If you are using a reference photo you already have a basic framework though, generally speaking and unless you are into Photo Realism, you will come up with an interpretation of the image at hand.
The Photographer has a scene before them. Certainly, (they can create an image in Photoshop from other images) but they don’t have to create shadows or the image when they are ‘live’ to a scene.’ Many scenes are already presented.
They choose the composition and begin shooting.
The Painter on the hand has to sketch/draw (mostly) the contents of the image, creating the effect of shadows, light, shape, texture and form with essentially 3 things, canvas, brush, pigment and a skilful hand.
Painting en Plein Air is the closest relation to Photography, I feel. Both the Painter and the Photographer have a scene in front of them and it is up to them what they distill from that scene, composition-wise to come up with an image.
The Photographer manipulates through camera, lens, lighting, angle, filter and later Photoshop or similar, using their imagination as well.
The Painter manipulates with their choice of canvas/paper, brush, pigment, line, angle, light and uses their imagination as well.
Back in the studio both can finish off their piece.
I’m not trying to say that Painting is better or is more creative than Photography though as each medium is irreplaceable. Painting cannot replace the immediacy of Photography. Photography can capture that ‘moment in time’ in less than a second, Painting cannot.
On a personal level, I have been photographing since the early 1980’s, although not as much these days. Sketching and Painting has certainly taken over, particularly in the last 2 years.
One of the things that I love about Sketching and Painting is the freedom it gives me and also the challenge of creating an image using basic tools.
In an article a while ago I wrote called, ’There Are No 36 Megapixel Brushes’ I wrote about how someone can take a photo with something as simple these days as a phone camera and, due to the technology available, come with a technically decent image. Composition/imagination is another story, however.
As a Sketcher/Painter, we cannot go out and buy a Brush and Pigment that will give us a technically brilliant sketch or painting.
Yes, there are electronic Sketching and Painting apps but you still have to have the technical and artistic skill to create the image.
I still love Photography but it takes up a different place in my life these days. Equipment-wise, I’m heading towards Mirror-less cameras and a high-end compact that I can take anywhere.
I’m thoroughly enjoying my journey in Sketching and Painting and I can see myself continuing this journey for many years to come.
When I first started photographing seriously (early 80’s), one of the attractions of photography was the mystery of how one would be able to achieve the image. In this instance I am talking about the technical process rather than the imaginative one that is connected with the idea or desire to portray a subject/emotion.
It was (and remains) a fascinating process. Light entered the camera and exposed the film which then was developed, then printed. There were a number of variables at each stage that could alter the way the image was captured and developed, let alone the printing process in the Darkroom.
To obtain a technically proficient image one had to perfect the techniques required to obtain the best possible image in your negative or positive image.
Fast forward to the Digital world. For some years now (due to the advances in technology, and indeed the Digital format itself), it has never been easier to obtain a ’technically proficient’ image in terms of the basic reproduction of a scene.
On the one hand, this is a positive, as it allows the photographer to concentrate more on the ‘creative’ side of things, knowing that they have the initial in-camera/process taken care of. On the minus-side it has taken away skills, enjoyment and a sense of challenge that many found to be a key part of the photographic process. Learning to choose the appropriate film, exposure, development time etc to gain a negative or positive that would help produce the desired results in printing was the goal.
There was a certain ‘mystery’ connected with the early part of the process i.e. through the processing of film and the effect of light on silver halides through exposure and development (before the darkroom printing stage) which has been lost to a certain degree. Once learnt, those techniques could be applied, but of course that took time…
I am not for one minute saying Digital is a bad thing as the Digital process has brought with it many benefits, one I have already alluded to. I shoot Digital myself.
Of course we do have the wonderful world of image manipulation programmes where we have the choice to alter images with abandon, depending on what we want to achieve. This is a great thing. With all this at our disposal though, sometimes I wonder if the technical aspects of photography have been made too easy?
Even though my passion for photography is as strong as it always has been I have (in the last few years) been slowly getting interested in painting and am currently learning Oil painting. There is certainly a ‘mystery’ there in terms of getting a ’technically proficient’ image.
I cannot just go out and purchase a brush/canvas/paint combination that will give me a technically proficient image. One has to endeavour to learn the skills, practice, make mistakes, learn some more, and repeat the process. (I am aware that I could do ‘Oil’ Painting digitally but that doesn’t hold an interest for me). Once I get better at these skills I will be able to communicate what I want to say, better and in more creative ways.
I love Art and my love for photography will continue throughout my life however my love for painting has increased with each passing year, to a point where I now aiming to allocate a certain amount of time every weekend to painting.
Much like coming up for an idea for a photograph or looking at a scene through a viewfinder, I can look at my blank canvas and proceed to paint an idea or sit outside and interpret a scene.
Ultimately though, what continues to separate individual photographers and individual painters is our imagination and the ability to convey the desired idea through creativity and technical skill.
Harry Callahan, Photographer – 1912 -1999 once said:
“The mystery isn’t in the technique, it’s in each of us…” – More Joy of Photography, Eastman Kodak – 1981
Where is the mystery?
“The mystery is in the learning and application of the technique which we then use via personal expression to creatively communicate our ideas…”
Poetry and Prose by #1 Amazon Bestselling Author of Nature Speaks of Love and Sorrow, Co-Author of #1 Amazon Bestseller, Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women, and Jan/Feb 2022 Spillwords Press Author of the Month