By Lew Bedell
I remember a few months ago a particular piece of art making its way through production here at Artistic Photo Canvas that caught everyone's eye and created something of a buzz. It was a digital “fine art” painting that was beautiful, contemporary, and truly striking. We knew the artist was exceptionally gifted. What we didn’t know at the time was that the origin of the piece was a digital photograph.
The photographer/artist that created “Chiara Bride” (shown here) – which, incidentally, made for a truly stunning stretched canvas print – was Melissa Gallo. It turns out that we’d unknowingly created something of a mutual admiration society because Melissa called our offices a few weeks ago to let us know that she was just blown away by the customer service she recieved and the quality of our work compared to other labs she’d tried. She was thrilled to have found both a medium and a vendor that finally showed her work it in it’s best light.
I later learned that Melissa was creating a webinar to teach her photo painting techniques to others. As you might imagine, I’ve seen a huge number of “photo paintings,” but I've never seen anyone who’s work so resembles a “real” oil painting. In fact, until Melissa told me, I had no clue that her art was the result of digitally painting photographs. I was on board for this webinar. I'm really looking forward to seeing exactly how she does it. I told her I would definitely give her webinar a plug on our blog. (It would really be a joy to see more digital art of that calibre coming through APC!)
Melissa’s webinar, “Turn Your Photo into a Classical Oil Painting,” will be hosted by Marathon Press and conducted live on December 7, 2010 from 8PM - 9PM Eastern. The cost is $34.00. Purchasers of the webinar will have permanent access to the taped version to review again and again. Click here to see more of Melissa’s photo paintings. After seeing the the exceptional results she achieves with her approach, I think you’ll agree that this webinar sounds like a great investment.
I asked Melissa if she’d share her thoughts with our readers about the trend of transforming photos into paintings and her upcoming webinar…
What is your experience with traditional painting and what attracted you to the digital medium?
“I was a paperback romance illustrator for 22 years-back in the day when there were no computers! Using acrylics, I worked in a very tight realistic style. It was tedious and hard work. A painting would take me a month to complete, working with a brush that came to a point of one single hair. I could not make mistakes-what I put down on canvas was final and there was no “undo.” By the time my last child was born and I had put my husband through veterinary school with my work, I was ready to quit. I had had it! I vowed I would never paint again! Then several years ago I fell into photography and started a photography business. One day, while flipping through a Photoshop magazine, I saw what I thought to be a traditionally painted oil painting, that they claimed had been done digitally. That painting transformed me. I couldn't believe it and I had to find out how it was done. I delved first in Photoshop and then found Corel Painter – and I was hooked! It was SO wonderfully easy and fun – and mistakes could be done away with the tap of a key.”
How would you describe the differences between “autopaint” and “filter” techniques and a “true” digital painting for photographs?
“There is a TREMENDOUS difference between auto painting/filter techniques and true painting! First of all, I do not like auto painting at all! You are not doing the painting – the computer is. This is not what we are trying to achieve. Instead, we are hoping to facilitate the art of painting using the computer. When we paint, our brains interpret what we are seeing based on our own physiological makeup and all of our experience. If you leave it to the computer, then the computer will do the interpreting for you – without the element of human emotion. That is why a painting can be so moving and magical – it is not “generated” – it is thought over, fought over and imbued with our feelings… Why would you leave your painting process to anyone – or anything – else? I want to demonstrate how we use a photograph as a basis only for our painting – but then take off from there.”
What types of photographs make good candidates for digital painting?
“It is important for everyone to remember – including photographers – that not all photographs are good for paintings! In the webinar I will give examples of what I would consider to be very good photographs but are not conducive to creating a beautiful painting. You might have a lovely photo of a senior girl or child – and yet it would not translate well into an oil painting. So, with this in mind I would start out with a few rules for choosing the right photo to paint from. First NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY – and that includes no off-camera flash either. If we take a look at what the great masters were doing, such as John Singer Sargent, we find that they posed their subjects in NATURAL LIGHT, which instantly added ambience and mood to their portraits. They were not worried about hi-def or even getting bounced light into the shadows.
“So what I'm really saying is if you want to create a CLASSICAL oil painting – with all it's nuances of feeling and emotion – throw out the latest trends in digital photography! Study the great masters of painting and begin to think like them and you will create a painting that is truly moving and beautiful. Secondly, create photos expressly for your painting. When brides ask me to do a painting of them, I will take a few photos that will be totally different from the rest. I will pose them in natural light and PUT THEM IN A SETTING – maybe by a window with a hint of a chair or flowered wall behind them. This adds to the mood. ‘Mug shots’ – even good ones – will not work. Neither will the current trend of distorted shots, wide angle poses, etc. Thirdly, shots that do not lend themselves to a beautiful oil portrait should not be used. NO PHOTOS OF PEOPLE WATERSKIING! A bride walking in a garden, a child playing in a forest, a young girl standing pensively in doorway – would be much better options.”
What are the features that make a digital painting “work?”
“The features that make a digital painting work are the very same ones that make any painting work – great composition, good color and a good dark and light pattern. One needs to know the rules of good painting even to paint well in the digital medium. I will go over these in the webinar. And believe it or not these things are not that difficult to learn or master.”
What will you teach during the webinar?
“In this webinar I am going to show you how to turn a photo into a classic oil painting – without looking like a photo that's been turned into a painting! Sadly, I see digital paintings all over the place these days that still look like photographs. Once printed on canvas, your work will have the look – and feel – of a true painting done in oils. You’re going to discover how easy it is to paint with sheer joy! But beware, you are going to be hooked! If Leonardo DaVinci had THIS medium to work in, he would never have looked back.”