Sunday, January 31, 2010

My thoughts on an old saw

Hi there everyone,

To continue my explorations of the world of video, I am
posting my second video tonight -- a brief discussion
of art from the photo, versus art from life. Which is better?
I shake my head. Neither is better. So much depends on
the day, the subject, how vivid it is in real life, how
vivid in the photo.

When I paint portraits ideally I'd prefer to have the
person sitting for me. That's why Skype is so cool,
because when you combine photos and Skype interviews
you get an experience close to the best of both worlds
-- the live subject, and if you snap some pictures with
Grab on a Mac, the photo record to refine your work.

Please forgive my red nose (it is cold in this office!,
and the paper clip holding my studio glasses together.)
This video was alla prima, no editing, and one small

Have a hey-this-is-what-works-for-me-day.


Janie B said...

I didn't know this was an issue. It seems that either way would be effective. I've used photos many times (most of the time for simplicity's sake) but I've also sketched from real life. I'm with you!

Barbara Muir said...

It isn't an issue with me, but I have heard endless talk about it.

Take care,


Liza Hirst said...

LOVE it, Barbara!! It's short, direct and absolutely down to the point - great! And you look great too! I agree 100% with what you say. Take care, Liza

Melinda said...

If a painting is well done, then it is indistinguishable from the point of reference. I'm sure there are those who feel that plein air or in Life drawing situations, one is more present for the art, but it may be that the artist just feels more of the moment when they are there. But, you've made the point that it really is about the paint and your own way of working!

Nice video! Can't see any imperfections.

LeSan said...

Well what an unexpected treat it was to see you "live." :-) So wonderful to hear your voice!
As for the photo vs. real life-- shoot, add in imagination as well while you're at it. I can't tell you how many times I have fielded shocked questions of disbelief and even disrespect because I use neither photo or real life. I paint what I see in my heart and mind. Every time I have tried to paint from the more traditional and accepted modes it is a total disaster.
I hear you and thank you for saying it--"can't we just leave each other alone" LOL
After all, it's art not science.

Jeanette Jobson said...

Good point and great video short and sweet.

There is a certain level of snobbery about painting from life over painting from photos but there shouldn't be. Each has its place in the world and some things more difficult to draw live than from photos.

A wise artist once told me, never explain to anyone how you make anything. Its their view, their emotion, its irrelevant as to how you got there.

And that is very true.

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Liza,

Thanks so much. You are so kind. I'm
so glad you like my silly little video. Of course I always second guess myself when I do such a thing. But my entire blog is made up of sporadic thoughts about art and my life, so... what the heck eh?


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Melinda,

Kind of you to ignore my imperfections. I of course stumble a bit, and then afterward noticed my strange glasses. But in a way artists are more like the absent minded professor types than we think. I can't believe it but people actually call me a professor sometimes. I'm not really absent minded, but I don't notice much else when I'm painting.


Barbara Muir said...

Hi LeSan,

Well I am astounded by your ability to paint from your mind. I wish I could paint without reference but my vivid imagination needs some anchor in reality. Of course the result is not often anything to do with real, but it is my springboard, so you amaze me.

Take care,


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Jeanette,

I like your wise artist's point of view. It is for instance very hard to get babies, and young animals of any sort to sit still long enough to be recorded. But I have also painted people who were dying, and could not sit, or be photographed. Long discussions with their children, and many, many photographs brought them to life emotionally for me. That matters.

Love your crow.

Take care,


Nicki said...

Hi Barbara,

This little video was great. Short and to the point. Many times I get asked if I paint from photos and sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes it is no. In my head I have wondered "Does it matter?". If I only painted landscapes from life, I would lose easily four months or more of the year that I could work. It is just not possible to paint outdoors in -20 or below! As well, the size of the painting would would have to remain portable and finishable (is that a word?)!

I also have a painter friend and she paints from her mind, as LeSan mentioned, using intuition and dreams as her guide.

I say it's all good as long as the art is made! Thanks for raising this discussion.


Portrait Artist

My photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I paint and draw on commission and for shows. To commission a portrait, or purchase one of my paintings please contact me at:
A major highlight in my career? Drawing Oprah Winfrey live via Skype for her show "Where in the Skype are you? Galleries: Studio Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada. The Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York City. Gallery at the Porch Door, Kingston, Canada. Your positive comments on this blog mean the world to me. I'd love to hear from you!