Using Photographs in Art

Someone said to me about this painting, “it looks like a photograph” and I responded, “oh, no it’s an oil painting.” At the time I thought she meant it looked like a collage or something, but later I realized she was perhaps questioning whether I had done it from a photograph.
There have a number of discussions on various blogs and art sites discussing the use of photographs by painters lately. I know there are purists and elitists out there that will dismiss an artist or their work if they think you use a photograph.

Yes, I did it, eek!! I used a photograph, I sometimes do. It depends on the effect and statement I am trying to make with a particular piece of work. For this painting I set the scene up and asked my daughter to pose with a specific image in mind.
For me photographs are just one more tool in my arsenal/repertoire of tools for me to use. Just for the record it isn’t because I can’t draw. As you can see from  this study
 of a plaster cast used in a classical drawing class I took with Karen Warshal at Ann Arundel Community College I can draw quite well I believe. 

I just discovered this blog in which the author talks about famous artists who used photographs and thought it would be interesting to share.


janvangogh said…
Photograph, schmotograph. I wouldnt give it a worry. I think it is a great piece, collage, photo set up or not.
Anonymous said…
PS. Even painting from photos takes skill.
Chana said…
oh hon, what you call it is just a name. the talent behind the artist is what counts and you have that in is so beautiful angel..she looks so peaceful and deep in thought, yet with such a sparkle in her eyes. trust me if i could, it be the sort of art i would love to own..

it is possible to have your deepest part of your heart be touched by art. this has done it for me. thank you.
janvangogh said…
BTW, hope the queen gig went well.
jafabrit said…
thanks jan, chana, I wasn't really bothered by it, just seems to be an issue with some people. Not sure it was an issue with the woman who asked me, just that it gave me pause for thought.

more on the vicky gig, which was so much fun, but oh am I tired. Waving constantly and giving audience to the populace is really quite exhausting ;)
Anonymous said…
whatever it takes is what I say :-)
jafabrit said…
hiay sue, you know what though, I kind of like that ambiguity. I like that some people can't tell and have to ask or wonder. I am almost thinking I might want to play with it further.
Anonymous said…
Sometimes I use photographs, sometimes I don't and sometimes I make it up. It depends on the subject...still lifes are easy to leave set up, obviously a live model would be more difficult...and unless you're in a life drawing class, how could anyone voluntarily sit that long?

I dismiss art elitists, who attempt to belittle another artist to raise their own standing.

I'm actually reading a "how to sketch" book. I know seems silly, I know how to sketch. But, the author sets up exercises where in you sketch from the TV screen. Start playing your VCR/DVD player and then hit pause, sketch quickly, move on in order to capture gestures and movement. I think I might give it a try.

I think that your last comment about playing with the idea is great! I'll be interested to see where you go with it.
Axl T. Ernst said…
(To Cynthia) Actually I've had a fair bit of luck having people sit for me! Just friends, even the amount of people willing to do it nude always comes as a surprise. Its amazing what offers one will get when you just suggest the act! Very cool.

And no this is not me being "Work from life, blah blah blah" I agree - whatever gets the job done, and gets the message across. It just has always surprised me sometimes just what some people will do to help an artist out XD
jafabrit said…
axl, I love drawing a live model, it really keeps you on your toes when it comes to observing and rendering the human form. For me though it is to practice and keep on my toes technically. You are lucky you have so many friends willing to model. I do LOVE your nude study paintings.

Glad you popped in to say hi. hope all is well at your end.
Anonymous said…
Your work is amazing, such a pure talent. It does move me...very powerfully. It touches my heart.

Perhaps I will own one of your works someday...I hope so.

Have a great week...

Fondest regards,
Anonymous said…
The only thing I like about the heated debates between working from photo's or from life is the beautiful colors their faces turn when in the middle of the verbal battle.


Bread is always better made from scratch and green beans are always better out of the garden. I do have my purist tendencies. It just isn't art related.

This is an awesome painting. Photo or no photo. Its nice to see you "Do what you want"
jafabrit said…
thanks Anna for your diplomatic response. I do believe that what makes it work (thank you for the compliment on my painting) is that I have enough background in drawing from life that I'm not just relying on the photograph itself to get the sense of flesh and bone.
Even freshly baked bread and fresh green beans can be ruined by a bad cook, and bought bread and frozen beans made into masterpieces by a good cook.

Dr.John said…
I think you should do what you want. Isn't taht what all great artists do. I loved the picture.
Anonymous said…
Picture me applauding wildly! I have so little time to draw these days, I steal it when I can. And I refuse to haul skulls off in the car to work with me every day, in the off chance I might get 5 minutes! Your work is superb, photo or no!
jafabrit said…
thanks wolf, and thanks for dropping by.
LynClay said…
This is a beautiful painting and I don't see a single thing wrong with using photos as a reference to go by!
jafabrit said…
ah thanks lyn, I don't think this lady was critisizing though.

If it's a good painting, and well executed then really what difference does it make. That is the point of my post. Where I see the problem is that some people do it because they can't draw and it shows in the painting. But then I have seen people who could draw and their paintings still sucked. sheesh! ya just can't win LOL!
janvangogh said…
That "frog guy" blog was interesting. I did not know those artists worked from photographs.
Anonymous said…
Personally, I use photos, and I'm not ashamed to say so. I had a teacher who preached that it was always better to work from life, but he used photos in certain cases too. I think the masters would have used photography if it would have been available to them.

What matters is the finished art and this is a great piece!
Looks like you've opened a can of worms...... here's another vote for using photo's......... if you want to use them.

Great painting by the way.
Well, I can't claim to be a "Jafa" but I insist on doing what I want, anyway!

I've rowed against the "purist" flow in everything I've ever done (education, music, writing, art), and wouldn't have it any other way.

The world's a big, complex place just teeming with possibilities. I use whatever appeals to me or discard at will.

My will.

Keep up the good work, JB! The world does not need another sheep!
jafabrit said…
hum w.j. you say "Well, I can't claim to be a "Jafa" but I insist on doing what I want, anyway!"

me thinks with an attitude like that you ARE a jafa :)
Anonymous said…
First of all, it's a glorious work of art and I absolutely LOVE it no matter HOW it was created.

I think it is obvious when someone like yourself can do both - work from life, and from a photograph - because you take what you know about 3 dimensional form into the recreation experience of working from a photo. I guess it's been said that those that work only from photos tend to have a flat, 2D look to their work. In my opinion, that can be a really cool effect, depending on how it's used, so I'm no "purist" when it comes to that. I am a fan of art that speaks to me, and I'm not so picky about how an artist gets there. I like that there seems to be a large collection of other contemporary artists out there that seem to feel the same way.

Again, I love this work of art. THAT is what is really most important.
Anonymous said…
art is art - no matter how it is created