Painting from Black and White photographs and a this-and-that still life on a stormy day

Painting from Black and White Photographs and a this and that still life on a stormy day, Hahnemuhle 150 dpi

Over the past few days I’ve been using my black and white photographs as a resource for my sketching/painting. The idea was that using black and white images would cause me to focus on tonal values. That has not been true. When I printed the photographs from their negatives some years back, I made decisions about tonal values then, deciding how deep I would render the shadows and how much range I could create leading up to the highlights. Perhaps because those decisions had been made already, I wasn’t drawn to reproduce a print I had already interpreted.

I found myself, without even realizing it, giving all my attention to colour selection once the sketch had been penciled in. And I also found myself rather at a loss even though I know fully well and also remember the colours in these very familiar scenes. What colour was the light? Was that water really that dark? Is it black or deep, deep blue? How do I render the mosses and browns at the bottom of the trees?

I have thousands of transparencies from my life in photography – in beautiful colour: landscapes, travel, remarkable people. Perhaps, while it is too brutally cold for plein air painting, I should dig out some of those slides and select a handful.

This little still life comes of some frustration that I have been largely snow-bound all day. I took a few things from the bookcase and mantle just to have something to paint, just to keep the hand moving and the eye learning. The greater frustration would have been to have made no painting at all.

Black and White Photographs and a this and that still life on a stormy day, Hahnemuhle 150 dpi 2