Deb Ward, GWS, OWS, PWS, WSI - WATERCOLOR/WATER MEDIA - My passion is teaching adult “beginners”. Weekly classes in my home; workshops; classes for Cincinnati Recreation Commission. My work is nationally recognized and published - see “Featured” on my sidebar. I’m a Signature Member of Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana state Watercolor Societies, Cincinnati Art Club, past-President of Greater Cincinnati Watercolor Society. Contact info below under “Class Information”

Friday, October 15, 2010


Lisa Walsh is a wonderful painter, so eager to learn and then willing to teach us as she goes along – and she’s funny, too!

A recent post of hers (October 11, 2010) dealt with the issues of photo reference vs. reality and drawing vs. tracing. I’ve been seeing a lot of posts regarding these issues lately; seems there are 2 very unified sides.

Now, I don’t usually jump into the fray, but it bothers me that these issues keep coming up - so, here I go with my 2 cents worth!

Regarding using photos as reference and either tracing or projecting - it's quicker and easier to transfer, just be careful about what to leave out and what to put in. Unless you love drawing, just get those "main lines" true and fill in the gaps. I think you would be surprised at how many artists do this - and I think that if Leonardo and Michael(angelo) would have had digital cameras and projectors and printers they would have used them! (And you have probably heard of the "camera obscura"??) You will have more time for painting, which you love!

If you love drawing - DRAW!

Since I'm not a plein aire (fancy French for "outdoor" - where reside bugs, ants, bees, rain, heat, wind and pesky pestering people, to name but a few things) painter, photos pretty much are my references.

I agree, we could probably all benefit from some more drawing time; can't hurt! And I’m doing more value studies which, when I follow them (LOL!) definitely help my paintings.

Here's a quick tip - if you like to draw faces - while watching TV push the "pause" button and grab a pencil and paper and draw faces!   News anchors, your favorite actors, commercial actors, maybe even an animal or two!  You can make it a quick study or something more formal; it's a great learning experience.

As far as exact color rendition in a painting - depends on what you are going for - some things demand to be recreated exactly, some things don't.

Just look around - there are SO MANY ways to paint - from abstract to photorealistic - do what you enjoy!

My personal belief is this - in true artistic fashion - do what feels comfortable for YOU - forget what ever "they" say to do (or not to do).

If you feel like you have to follow a set of rules, that you are “cheating” if you don’t do certain things, you will cease to enjoy your painting time.

We all paint for a different reason – a hobby, to win awards, for therapy – so paint the way you want – draw, project, trace – paint abstract or photorealistic or anything in between!

Ignore those who look down their nose and say you are doing it wrong when you don’t do it their way – don’t let them kill your joy - to each their own!

Enjoy your own process and enjoy what you do.

Paint for YOU because you want to; have fun; use rules or throw them out the window.

If you are satisfied with your work; if it looks the way you intended for it to look; if it makes you smile or feel proud when you look at it, then, pretend you are a Nike™ commercial and “Just Do It!”.

And now, no doubt I will be bombarded with comments – hope most of them are “pro” rather than “con”.


Lisa Walsh said...

Well said, Deb! *applause, applause* Count me on the 'pro' side, I totally agree with you. There are a myriad of artists out there, and a myriad of ways to create art; NONE of which are 'right' or 'wrong', they are simply personal to each artist. The points in my post were strictly personal...things that I feel I need to do to improve my skills, not agendas that I wanted to foist on the entire art community. It appears that I didn't make that clear in the post, so maybe I need to address the issue again to clarify some things. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, and thanks for standing up with paintbrush proudly held high and giving us your take on the subject.

Jeanette said...

I fully agree Deb. I believe in using whatever tools are at your disposal to create your art.

I am so sick of the debate over working from photos and life. Both are fine and both have limitations. The naysayers are usually those who need to feel a certain level of superiority in claiming one is better than the other.

If your final product pleases you, if you enjoy the process and use the tools that help you, then creating art is simply that, an act of creation.

debwardart said...

Lisa and Jeanette - Whew!!! I'm glad someone agrees with me!! Perhaps we will be an army of 3, fully armed with paintbrush swords and palette shields and watercolor paper hats (mine will be 300# for added protection) fending off the army of naysayers and joy killers! And let's have fun doing it!

Vicki Greene said...

Amen! Thanks for speaking up.

Egle said...

I really like your point of view, it's very encouraging :) And courage is one of the most important personal qualities an artist needs to possess, or gain somehow... like reading you posts!

debwardart said...

Thanks Vicki and Egle!
Egle - just persevere!

Pat said...

I'm in agreement too. What are you doing it for if not for enjoyment? No-one is superior - there's room for all !

Watercolors by Susan Roper said...

Great article, Deb. I have taught beginner watercolorists for awhile and the common thread that keeps people from signing up for a painting class seems to be "I can't draw so I can't learn how to paint". I always say "I am a painting teacher, not a drawing teacher, so get the basic drawing on your paper no matter how you do it, just get that out of the way so you can start painting"!

Personally, I do it both ways. Most of my landscapes are drawn (using my own photos from our travels, I am like you regarding the plein air difficulties)and some other subjects traced or projected. There, I have admitted it! If I had waited until I could draw everything perfectly I would still not be a watercolor artist, and since that was my main goal I would have been very disappointed.

RHCarpenter said...

Well, it seems there is no devil's advocate here, we all want to use the tools we have to get where we want to go! ha ha Now, maybe that's saying something about our ages or how long we've been painting, but I think you first want to know all the rules and then find out there are no real rules you have to follow in art other than what you've said = be courageous and just do it!

debwardart said...

Pat - Amen!
Susan - we are 2 great minds thinking (and teaching!) alike! You are right about people being afraid to draw in class! But if they can overcome that fear and "just paint" they enjoy it.
Thanks for your comment Rhonda!

Joan Sandford-Cook said...

Wonderful article Debs supporting every artist and their own approach to creativity. We can set our own rules if we want - for example I endeavour never to create a 'serious for sale' painting from photos unless they are taken by me. I think this is because I had to be there to use the camera, so I have a personal link with the subject. This doesn't mean I don't sketch from DVD's and magazines as well as life but they are in my own sketchbooks and not for sale. Each to his own I say, whatever subject, whatever material, whatever style. I tell (or should I say told as I have now retired) students nothing is wrong only different. Good for you bringing this age old 'chestnut' out into the open.

debwardart said...

Joan - thanks for your comments! And I love when you show us your sketchbooks!

Mary Sonya Conti said...

You always get to the heart of it. Too many times we listen to what "others feel our art should or shouldn't be" There in one looses not only direction but getting down to their own unique style (not to mention squelching creativity). Thank you for stating a lateral point of view without diminishing.

debwardart said...

Hi Sonya! Thanks for the comment!

maria kovalenko leysens said...

You are right. It depends on what the artist wants. If someone is not confident in their drawing or wants something very accurate then sure, use a graph, camera, projector... If you are looking for a looser interpretation, then sometimes the drawing, even alittle off can give a wonderful whimsy and charm to a painting. Having choices and tools to choose from keeps things fun and helps develop our individual voices.

debwardart said...

Maria - thanks for stopping by and thank you for your comment!