Mashups: Photography and Painting

posted in: Painting | 4

Centuries ago we began recording vision with tools like the concave lens which reproduced visual appearances  that corresponded with the way our brain constructs images. Hold up a concave lens to a bright scene and it will reflect that scene onto a dark wall.  Like our eyes, the  image is projected upside down on the wall. Curious to see how vision worked, Kepler dissected the eye of an ox  and discovered the image exits the lens upside down. A more controllable and artist-friendly device came later, the camera obscura. The camera obscura also known as the camera ottica is basically a pinhole camera. Add a lens and a mirror and you have a machine of remarkable utility for artists wishing to record  appearances. Almost a 1000 years ago Al Haythem ( a.k.a. Al Hazen) constructed and described the first camera obscura. In 1500 DaVinci would describe the camera obscura effect in his notebooks. By the end of the 16th century the little wooden box with a lens, viewing tray, and tent for blocking out the light was on its way to becoming a widespread tool of artists in the studio and in the field.  Make your tracing of visual evidence in your camera obscura then later grid the tracing to make a scale-up large painting.  Example A shows Canaletto’s camera obscura machine and a drawing (example B) which he is gridding up for a larger painting.  The process is not easy because the slightest movement of the camera obscura upsets the image, moves it out of alignment with the tracing. Delicate, steady hands are required. But, painting and the image from a separate lens were merged.

Example A. Canaletto’s Camera Obscura.nov13,5,camera obscura, a canale edited-1_edited-1

Example B. Canaletto’s drawing and grid.nov13,5,Canaletto,AntonioCanale,1700s,drawingforscalingup

Our brains don’t make our visual images like a camera obscura or a cell phone or digital camera. Our visual information comes through our eye which receives all edge acuity information and color information in its tiny center (fovea). Color is only collected with sufficient light. As light diminishes we receive less color. Our cones in the center of our fovea demand lots of light, our rods which are not color sensitive do not need as much light….it’s why we don’t see color at night. A camera collects all its light information at once. We don’t. Our eye sends its signals electro-chemically to the cortex where  color, shape and motion information all arrive at differing speeds  (times). Our brain sorts, correlates, edits and manufactures an image based on its previous experience. The unrecognized is often dismissed; the complicated is simplified. Paintings work this way.  Our brain gets information from a stereo setup of two eyes and, can perceive relative motion and parallax information in a way that a camera does not. If I make a painting it is the result how I  collect, edit and modify information  with my tools, touch and pigments.

I have merged these two disparate systems mechanically. I have overlapped product from the camera (example 1) with the painting (example 2) that was inspired by the photo.  Cameras don’t simplify, edit, and organize vision like we do.  But, the camera can take points of view that are physically impossible for us.  I took this photo  an inch above the surface of a vernal pool which would reveal the effects of lens distortion an experience we share with cameras, just not to the same extent. Our distortion is much more pronounced. Our brain simply ignores and corrects it. I overlaid the photo with the painting (example 3). I did some doctoring of the photo and the merged image in Photoshop.  In the next examples I show you the roll of Photoshop in making a happier marriage between the photo and the painting. Example 4 shows the photo. Example 5 shows the painting. Example 6 shows the first merger and example 7 shows the effects of more Photoshop enhancements.

example 1. the photo.nov13,5,devils den oct14,36x36_edited-2

example. the painting nov13,5, devils den painting36x36_edited-1

example 3. the merged image nov13,5,devils den painting and photo merged,36x36_edited-4

example 4. the photo nov13,5,orig photo,shorelines, ptg phto merge10e_edited-3

example 5. the painting nov13,5,shoreline solar sea grass, oil on brushed gold anodized aluminum, 36x36_edited-1

example 6. 1st merged image nov13,5,shorelines, ptg phto merge10e_edited-2

example 7.  enhanced merged image nov13,5,shoreline solar sea grass, oil on brushed gold anodized aluminum, 36x36_edited-2b_edited-1

The last examples begin with work I presented in an earlier blog. The photo (example 8)  is a result of multiple photos merged and altered. The painting in example 9 was previously presented.  The hybrid merger  ( example 10 ) is the final merged product or, in the popular music nomenclature, a mashup.  These have been printed now on a large format Epson 9900 capable of 44″ square images.

Before showing you my last examples allow me to invite you to join me in Raleigh Durham NC this weekend ( November 8,9 and 10) where I will be demonstrating and conducting workshops for Art of The Carolinas with Jerrys Artarama. Contact Jerry’s Artarama at 800 827 8478 ext 156 if you would like to enroll in one of my workshops. Next week on November 16th  I invite you to join me on a tour of New York’s Metropolitan Museum from 10 am to 4 pm with a lunch break. If you are interested in this tour ( limit  ten) contact the Silvermine School of Art at 203 966 6668 ext 2. Here, I will explain how artists made their paintings. And, on Sunday afternoon November 17th, I will be in Lakeville CT at the White Gallery (phone  860 435 1029) for an afternoon lecture on “How We See” .

example 8. the photo. nov13,5,harlem bridges5_edited-1

example 9. the painting. nov13,5,painting,city bridges, oil on anodized aluminum,24x24_edited-2

example 10. the merged image.nov13,5,city bridges, merger of ptg and photo_edited-2

4 Responses

  1. This all has merit, beauty and skill. The intellectual of art is most rewarding, as you so carefully point out. Thank you for this well-written and well-documented post.

  2. Fredric Neuwirth

    Is # 3 & # 7 a new photograph or is it a new painting? It is not clear what you mean by merger. I know that #10 is a painting as I’ve seen it

    If #3 & # 7 are a new photograph enhanced in photoshop it is very cool thing to do to enhance a painting.. I like the idea a lot.

    Is Sherman near Lakeville? If so what time is your lecture at the White Gallery. I will be in Sherman on Sunday and could attend. Thanks

  3. Fred,
    by “merger” I meant the merger of the painting and the photo into a single new image. I have edited the blog to now say “the merged image”. Thanks, David

  4. So looked forward to your ws in the carolinas, and I was not disappointed. You covered much info, and I was delighted. I hadotold lv. During your alum. Demo and didnt get to say thank u for a ws jthat delivered everything u promised. Love your blog.
    The black hair 70 yr old lady in the front

    black haired 70 yr old woman in the front.

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