Afternoon Delight by Jane Conner-ziser

A good portrait artist knows that successful paintings result from making the right decisions. An artist who works with a variety of photography styles should be comfortable being a chameleon of sorts in order to create paintings that are appropriate to the piece.

Take this image, for instance, sent to me by Clay Blackmore. At first glance I wasn't keen on painting it because I thought the flower detail was screaming to be a photograph but Clay was really interested in seeing a painting so I put on my thinking cap to see what I could come up with for him and his customer.

Studying the image, I came to the conclusion that bright colors and jumbles of flowers are key elements. For painting style, I had the choice of painting each flower perfectly or going with a rougher, more interpretive approach. The image seemed spontaneous, excited and happy to me. I didn't want to quiet it down by being too structured, so I formed a plan to develop the painting in a free and uninhibited style.

My thinking was that the couple went into the flower field because it was so amazing. I wanted to see more flowers so I stretched the field up behind the subjects in Adobe Photoshop. I wanted to see more colors so I used an Image Adjustment Layer / Hue Saturation to saturate the yellows, greens and cyans. In order to retain more detail in the paint, I further prepared the image by adding Lucis Art / Exposure to super-define the edges.

Next it was off to Corel Painter where I Cloned the file and used the Airbrush / Digital Airbrush to paint a white border around the image. Closing the initial file, I Cloned the one with the border and opened the Auto Painting window.

The settings Smart Stroke Painting and Smart Settings were checked and I chose to use the Artist Category / Sargent Brush, cloning color. Clicking on the Play icon, I was able to sit back and let Painter create the under painting for me.

I like to use the Auto Painting option when there is a lot of background to work up, but it's important to remember that it's step one of a three step painting process (Under Painting, Focal Point Development and Details and Decorations). I thought the edges were too digital looking so I went back with a larger Sargent Brush to get a rougher edge. A smaller Sargent Brush was used to add detail to the subjects and some of the flowers around them, In addition, I ceased to use the Clone Color option so I could add some of my own colors - blue, cyan, red and orange.

Even with the additions of detail, I felt like the painting had lost definition and flower excitement so I made a quick Image Hose Nozzle from some of the original sunflowers and hosed them across the image, randomizing them with the Distort / Pinch brush and then tying them into the rest of the painting with the Artist / Sargent brush.

After further detail additions in the head and shoulder area of the subjects, the painting was nearly complete. I added Effects / Surface Control / Apply Surface Texture using Image Luminance at Amount 15, Shine 5 and brought the painting back into Adobe Photoshop for final inspection.

I liked it, but I didn't love it... I wanted to feel bright and sunny when I looked at the painting, but something about it said "drab", which is common when turning outdoor photography into painting - the world has so many colors that photography just doesn't capture! I decided to use one of my "secret weapons" - Nik Color Effects Pro / Sunshine and it was the perfect choice! The painting came alive and I was happy to send Clay something fun and exciting to deliver to his customer.

Afternoon Delight didn't take a long time to paint - in fact, it was very simple and worked up quickly once I got started. The challenge was making the right decision of how to handle the image and coming up with The Plan. My advice to photo artists? Don't limit yourself or your market by using only one style - be a chameleon! It's great creative exercise and you just might surprise yourself with what you can do. 30 plus years of experience says that longevity is in knowing how to bring out the best of the photograph using a variety of styles and applications. The more tricks you have in your bag of creativity, the more opportunity you will have.

Thanks, Clay, for a fun painting experience with Afternoon Delight!

More about Jane >>

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Filed under: Photo Tutorials September 08, 2008
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