A friend of mine sent me a quick selfie a while ago of herself wearing a dress that she had made. I thought the pose and expression was interesting (as well as the dress being lovely) and so I made a painting of it – though, I had to change a lot of things.
The original photo was taken with a phone camera into a mirror, indoors in artificial light. This is the painting I made from it.
My friend is a great lover of books, so I turned the phone in her hand into a book, and added her pet budgie and tortoise to the picture to keep her company, along with an enormous rose-bush and a random pillar.
This picture is only 14 by 10 inches, so I’m quite pleased I achieved a likeness in such a small space.
I went through several iterations of this painting, and photographed each one as I went along, so I thought it might be interesting to post each one.
Version 1. Her face looks washed out, the shadows look odd and the pillar is wiggly. Also there’s something odd about her pose.
Version 2: better lighting, her face is more ‘there’ and her legs are in a more natural position.
Version 3 : I realised that although the figure and the tortoise had shadows, I had forgotten to give the pillar one! The shadows still don’t look quite right here, but at least there IS a shadow on the pillar where it should be.
Now scroll up to see the final version where I fixed the shadows and made a few final tweaks to the lighting!
You can see the lighting is slightly different again,and that changes the colours. I know that some people feel that paintings should be scanned rather than photographed, because the lighting is consistent then, but… well.
The thing is that a real painting hanging in a real room does change with the light. This is not a digital image: it’s made up of layers of variably translucent paint, and it responds to the light; its colour, its warmth, its direction. Putting it in a scanner where it will be lit by a single flash of artificial light is no more ‘accurate’ than photographing it in warm south afternoon light, or colder north-facing morning light. I now take photos of my paintings in various locations, then choose one, adjust colours in software to pick the one where the light pleases me and the image on my laptop matches most closely with the image I have set in front of me. But none of the photographs are wrong.