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Which photo would you paint?

edited August 2017 in Technical Support
This question comes up for me each time and as I'm always eager to read what others would do I will leave this up as an ongoing thread -- feel free to post your own photo dilemmas!

The following two pics were taken at La Grande Orange in Pasadena this July one evening in the bar area. It has a great vibe Louisiana meets Morroco circa 1930. Rob is definitely an old soul so the vibe and the martini are perfect props. I want to keep the palm frond in for that reason. 

His eye will be a challenge. (I can hear the critiques now "great painting of some guy, too bad she screwed up his eye!" Only Rob's friends will now I didn't!  the hands in both shots are great -- the hands and the cold glass will be the big challenge this time. I keep hearing Stefan Baumann "fingers closed or it will look like a claw!" Even so I like it -- looks massive. Can't wait to hear your thoughts. 


  • I would say the first one... with more vibrant colors... and i cal get a better sense of the surrounding...
  • I think his eyes in the second photo are better for the portrait. Both have great shadows in the face for depth. The extreme light above his head and the camera's distortion of vertical lines of the windows to the left make it tricky. The plaid shirt is a killer challenge too. Definitely keep the plant and the painted column. The dents in the table top too. He's got a face full of character and you can have a lot of fun with the hair. 
  • I think the first photo but the composition could do with a tweak.
    if you can move him to the right it would work better.

    As it is you have two very strong elements - him and the plants, with a large gap between with him squeezed  up against and out of the picture plane. 
  • edited August 2017
    I like the colours better in the first shot. And, yes, I think moving him right so he's closer to the plant would maker for a better composition. You could experiment with this in Photoshop or other image editing software. I think the trickiest part will be getting the values right in the face and hand but if you do get it right and if you tweak the composition it could make a very good painting.
  • I like the aged "patina" of the  wall/column behind him and would like to keep some of that visible if you bring him to the center. That is if you want that 1930s ambiance. I thought there was an interesting feature with the window beyond the window to his right. My mom and dad had that 1930s ambiance when they were teenagers. You should paint the martini from life. The glass sitting in front of the source photo. It's so difficult to get the liquid level adjusted - lots of trial and error.
  • If you could take some more photos of the same person then please do. These photos have exaggerated perceptive distortion. All the things that are closer to the camera are bigger. Try to take them from some distance if you can. Don't worry about a good sharp photo, in real life things are not that sharp. A slightly blurred photo will help you to simplify the process of identifying correct values and brushstroke making. 
  • I would think that possibly a persons eye would be drawn to the spot over the mans head. Lighting is a concern here maybe.
  • @Kaustav and @movealonghome I see what you are pointing out -- I get a wide angle effect when I take my dog's pic close up and the distortion (huge nose!) caused in that case is obvious, intentional, and kind of cute!! But my dilemma in this case is that even if I could recreat the whole scene - because of the high booth back I would be unsuccessful in taking additional photos from a further distance. So what is a work around I can employ or are these two photos doomed? 
  • @Kaustav beat me to it - if you go with the first one (perhaps after re-arranging or even cropping the right hand side a bit) then the lens distortion will make it obvious this was a painting from a photo. But that may or may not bother you. Because of the nice colours and reflected lighting, if it was me I would be tempted to try and make something of it, just because (for me) it would provide a set of new challenges. So I think its really a personal choice - perhaps ask yourself why you want to paint this image, and what you want to learn by doing it. If its an image you love and you can't wait to get started, then go for it! As far as some of the imbalance in lighting goes, then as you are the boss, you are free to tweak that a bit as necessary.
  • edited August 2017
    @Roxy I am thinking mostly in terms of technical aspects. Generally when we have a photograph, we tend to copy everything, which doesn't happen when we paint from life. Even when we paint from a photo, idea is that it is just a reference to paint from (unless it is photorealism painting). If one has the necessary tools to reduce some of the areas they can use that. But perspective distortion is not a matter of preference and not an easy thing to correct while painting. You have to have some knowledge to fix that. It is better and easier to take a better photo reference.
  • edited August 2017
    @Bancroft414 ; These are certainly not doomed. I think you should go with no. 1. It has some good things in it. May be you can just shift him slightly towards the right as @Boudicca suggested but not to the center. It has less perspective distortion in the face due to distance. What I can tell you is to reduce the size of his hands using MS paint or something. Generally hands are not bigger than our face. Cut the table a little from the front.
  • @Bancroft414 watch Anders Zorn's brighter portraits before starting. They will give you an idea about how to go about it.
    He also painted from photos sometimes because he was photographer too but he was also a master of painting from life.
  • BOB73BOB73 -
    edited August 2017
    Not sure if I got all the above straight in my soggy brain but if you are worried about photo-distortion in the architectural elements just use a straight edge keeping it parallel with the edge of the canvas Vertical or horizontal. It shouldn't too difficult to figure the perspective from a casual measurement of the window did I say that right.
  • I think my choice would be decided by which one reflects the essence of the man. The second one reflects a strong, outgoing defensive personality, the first more laid back defensive stance. 
  • I prefer his pose and placement in the first photo. I think it shows more of his character, and more 'action' if you will. Is he in conversation with the viewer? what is he thinking? His pose begs those questions whereas the front facing, middle of the composition pose seems to lack that simply because it's a more staged, sitting for a photograph pose.

    The black bar behind him would need to be eliminated as well as the blank wall, but I think that could be managed easily. The distortion previously mentioned is an issue with both photos. 
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