How much does imagination inside your painting?


  • That should be …in your painting
  • edited October 18
    For my landscapes, I never just copy a photo. I never entirely imagine them, either.  I start with a scene that interests/inspires me and then I imagine how I want the painting based on this scene to look. Then I set about creating a reference that will get me to that destination. The placement of forms, the values and the color are all worked out in thumbnail sketches and in my image editor before I start painting. I add things, delete things, move things around until I get a composition that I'm happy with. I like painting real places. I've never tried painting purely from imagination. I've never wanted to. Nature is beautiful and interesting enough for me, so I don't need to imagine a landscape. I just need to tweak things a bit. 
  • None...
    one of my friends doesn't know how to draw or paint but has a lot of imagination. I'm jealous..
    I just copy what i see...
    so, is there a way to get better, at being a little bit more imaginative?
    The sad thing is that i used to have better imagination when i was a teenager.
  • Like @tassieguy, I tend to use reference photos and then take them through my image editor and rework things to my liking.  I still do copy some things and enjoy painting the still life arrangements that I set up and photograph myself.  I would not know how to use pure imagination for say a landscape painting and admire those who can do that and "get it right" with light and shadows, etc.
  • Looks like we're all pretty much the same so far. I wonder whether it's even humanly possible to paint convincing realism entirely from imagination. Sure, one could knock out pretty, formulaic landscapes like Bob Ross, but, for me, they lack the accuracy of value, colour and form that would make them believable as high realism. I can't see how it can be done without studying nature, whether you're painting still lifes, portraits or landscapes. I can't imagine that a painter like Sargent, for example, relied much on imagination. He studied the visual world intensely and strove to reproduce what he saw. I'm not saying that Sargent's sort of work, and the type of realism that most here strive to produce, is the only type of realism. But it's the sort of realism that I like. And I think it would be extremely hard to do it from imagination alone.  I guess that after studying nature and painting for decades one could acquire enough knowledge and skill to paint something realistic from imagination, but I'm not there yet and, alas, probably don't have enough years left to get there.  :)
  • I like this topic. I'm recovering from covid right now and will respond next week.
  • edited October 24
    That's bad luck, @KingstonFineArt. You're still with us so I guess you had the vaccine. Still, take it easy because it can knock folks our age around a bit even though we're vaccinated.
  • edited October 24
    Well I have never done a painting solely from imagination alone but I use my imagination when the spark for an idea comes as to what I want to paint and how I would like it to look which can change during the process.
    I also use my imagination when taking photos for my source image. Or if I am painting from a still life set up I use my imagination during setting it up and adjusting to see the different ways it can look.

    Yes take it easy @KingstonFineArt, ive had long covid since catching it in July. Mostly things are normal but I get random days when I feel wiped out.
  • edited October 24
    MichaelD said:

     I've had long covid since catching it in July. Mostly things are normal but I get random days when I feel wiped out.
    Hell, as I get older, I'm having more and more days like that even without COVID. Two scotch and sodas and I'm a write off for three days, lol. 

    Hope the bad days keep getting farther apart for you, @MichaelD:)
  • @tassieguy

    Ha ha, thanks Rob,

    Yea ive been tempering it with acknowledging that im also getting older.

    As for the drink, a couple of occasional glasses of red wine would be my max. I have probably only had 2 bottle in total this year.  :)
  • Marinos_88

    so, is there a way to get better, at being a little bit more imaginative?
    Yes. The easiest way is to turn up at a life drawing workshop with some newsprint and charcoal.
    Try to get loose in your drawing style. No/low cost materials. Try lots of things. Aim to turn the drawings into garden mulch.

    Use your non favoured hand sometimes.
    Use tone not line.
    Use the side of the crayon.
    Black paper and white chalk. Etc etc.

    Draw dozens, keep one or two.


  • edited October 24
    Despite my decades of living, I still cannot from my imagination perfectly imagine what different kinds of light are going to do on multifarious surfaces, what they will reflect from and hit, how values and colours will shift... Part of my joy in painting is to learn to observe what I'm looking at - and trying to paint something forces me to notice what my mind takes for granted. I always need a reference. So I create the reference in photoshop from images:
    REALISM: I begin with a photo I've taken. I critique to see flaws and then imagine how it could be improved. I then turn to photoshop to visualise what I'm imagining (easier than sketching for me). Correct the lighting, contrast, colour. Crop. Remove items. Move items. Bring in an element from another photo. Combine multiple photos. Similar to you @tassieguy.
    NON-REALISM: I begin with an idea I imagine in my mind. Then in photoshop I collage bits and pieces of any image - photo, painting, anything - to create that image. When I'm happy I paint from the image I created and it contains real information about form and light and colour. (eg, I borrowed a hat from a photo of a tango dancer under a spotlight for my man looking up at the moon. I lacked the imagination and fashion sense to design that 1940s-looking hat or to know how a single light would describe the form. But I did imagine he was wearing a hat like I used to see as a child in old b&w movies and imagined a tango dancer might form part of my search because of their sense of style.)
    I've sometimes combined bits from 15-20 photos to make a painting composition.
  • I guess I approached art from the opposite direction, meaning that all I had was imagination and very little skill/knowledge. See below of an early ooc. But I have enjoyed that process. Thanks to joining this site, my desire to improve the skill of painting realism has taken hold. I want to paint what I see/feel realistically but through my imagination. So probably starting with an idea, then finding realistic sources to combine into a painting so it hopefully inspires the viewer to think and wonder, hopefully in a positive way. 

  • I really like this.  I've done quite a few imaginary paintings with nothing but what was in my brain.  Uh oh.  Maybe we are weird. I usually paint realistically, but occasionally need to be different, seems like you do too.
  • Thank [email protected] In the spirit of this thread, Art is a release for me. Maybe we are all a little weird, but maybe that’s what makes a different, unique. Our imagination, what makes it what it is? Our experiences? 
  • I like this, too, @whunt. It's well painted and there's a lot to explore in it. You have a good imagination.  :)
  • Thank you @tassieguy. If I can get to painting the environment at the level you have attained I can imagine creating a much better painting some day! 
  • Covid is still with me but a little less oppressive.

    I think of imagination it's in practical terms.
    " Gee I want to make a painting of an old lobster boat on rolling waves." Or " I want to make a still life in the Trompe l'oeil style using art materials I've used over the years". Maybe "I want to do a portrait of my friend Dr. Diamond in a narrow value range".

    Imagination covers a very wide spectrum. But because we are on a forum the focuses on realist painting. I'm narrowing my focus by zoneing in on representational painting.

    There are many tools and procedures the can help focus our thinking. I honed these practices in art school. The tools I've used are simple. There are many examples of thumb-nailing on the internet.

    I start with an idea like a still life, landscape, city scene or poster for Rotary. Use no photos as reference in the early steps.

    I start with abstract smudges of the idea. Always work in a thumb nail version of the desired canvas. I 'broad brush' in a simple abstract. Using a carpenters pencil, a broad dark marker or even oils and a brush. I refine the abstract to a rough composition of shapes. Enlarging the thumbnail with refinement. Stopping at about 1/2 desired size. Refining until the shapes becoming 'real-ish' objects.

    I then collect reference materials for the painting. Refining at 1/2 size to a reasonable comprehensive level.

    I often use the 'small comp' as my main guide for the painting.

    Right now i'm ideating a still life in the Trompe l'oeil style. I't been in my unconscious for a few days. Thinking of using art materials and tools I've used over the years. Many of which I have tucked away in my studio. I am also going to try and conjure up some ideas for this with AI. I think my imagination will br better.

    In a day of so I'll show some examples.

  • Looking forward to your ideas on this painting @KingstonFineArt
    I am between paintings so to speak.  Trying to come up with what’s next. 😀
    Glad to hear the covid is less oppressive, I hope you get past it fully soon. 
  • An older painting with thumbnail. The thumbnail was done years before the painting. I can't find the original photo. It was a print from film before I want digital.
    The two things I emphasized in the thumb were the tree line and the weeds in foreground. I made the weeds more important. I was in a critique group at the time I did the painting and Ianni suggested the increased emphasis on the weeds.
    This barn is being to fall apart for many reason. I be sorry to see it go.

  • There’s a hint of sunlight on the left edge of the barn in the sketch that is missing in the painting.  I think if you added that it would add a nice touch to the scene.
  • I used to paint from nothing else than imagination,  however, my paintings were rather low on realism but high on dealing with student life and all that belongs to it. It is only now that i feel confident and able to work from life.
  • Beautiful! Is this entirely from imagination, @IlariKoskimies?
  • Not entirely since I used a real-life location as inspiration, and there are some readymade elements in the 3d model, such as the 3d scanned statue of Venus. 

    This is how the model looks from a different perspective 

  • Greek Garden in Villa Durazzo-Pallavicini, Genoa Italy 

  • I have used cgi to build models and compose reference paintings for 25 years. Only a few have passed muster. Here's one that didn't make it from 2003. The Judith. Strata design. I may still do it. I tried it as a digital print. NG.

  • edited November 13
    Love this one. Great composition and color and sense of movement.
  • I like the boat in the water image.  You feel the swell of the water as if you are right there in it.  Would make a fantastic painting.
  • I like the examples of @KingstonFineArt and @IlariKoskimies in that sense that by incorporating models or objects from real life, the imagined image just improves so much that would likely be not possible without those objects. Perhaps just as an architect might construct a cardboard model to get a feel for the space or perhaps even see a relationship that from a technical drawing would not be observed before. 
  • When I was a kid our class visited Parrish's Studio. There was a model set up for one of his famous pieces.
  • CBGCBG -
    edited November 16

    When you did that live session/interview with Mark Carder

    you mentioned (at that time) that you always paint from your photos (at about 11:42) but you do play around with your photos.  Is this still your primary technique?   I think it still qualifies as imagination... like a sculptor, playing with clay using imagination, even though you start from reality.

    I'm not plugging your site, or trying to help you sell anything :) ... but I happen to love your work.

    In your gallery, I am interested in the process you used for  "Winter Falls"

    and "Before the Dark"

    Were these both painted (at base) from photos you took?  Where were they taken?  These are glorious! It must have been wonderful to stand there in the chill sunset (or sunrise).

    I see much imagination there even if based on reality of the scene before you.

    Finally, IMHO you should include sold pieces on your site, that way people can see more of your work even if no longer available!!
  • edited November 16
    Thanks of the complimentary post. Imagination for me is everything. I can't get away from working out of my head. 

    This thread started me on a project. Part practical, part digging into my past. I an attempt to get some draws space in my flat file I decided to scan my old illustrations. Keep the originals and throw away the tear sheets. So far I have about 200 pieces scanned. Much of the work was observational. Making funny out of the everyday.  Almost all editorial starting in1970. I had to imagine or remember stufff and places to do my work.

    Goofy like this Dining out piece...

    to looney views of Boston's underworld.

    I'd still be doing this cazy stuff except the magazine and editorial business hadn't collapsed in the early 80's. I know people who continued on in the editorial world. But they mostly stuck to one thing. Where's the fun in that.

    As for the paintings you mentioned I was inspired to make my brush dance more by my friend and fellow former illustrator Peter Fiore. I was exploring color in a different way and his urgings made these pieces work. I don' find these paintings to be perfect but the are a sort of Nexus. They were worked up from photos shot on the same evening at Skinners Falls on the Delaware River. One of the latest paintings I posted is from the same place. A five minute drive.

    Since then I've dialed the color back to chromatic neutrals. I don't stay on any 'style' for long. I always explore. 
  • Jim Kingston, you are a madman, except you aren't. 
    Kind rgds from this English Setter  :)
  • really interesting discussion :)  
    @KingstonFineArt...I can't visualise at all so imagination is very little content for me. I CAN use Affinity software though so I can enhance lighting and combine images to get what I want...I run on intuition and a kinesthetic sense of "rightness" to know if what I end up with "works".

  • I am somewhat classically trained. I can draw correctly. What ever happened to learning how to draw? 

    To me realism means drawing. The resolution of shape, light and composition.  Drawing never stops through the whole painting process. Painting is not filling in the appropriate color value areas on a canvas. Drawing should always take control of the brush. Ever correcting, ever changing ever resolving. Wash and repeat. 

    Surely learning to draw with a sense of intuition and a kinesthetic sense is most important. It is where we understand form and context. From there we can do anything. 

    Mark Carder's biggest fault is not placing enough importance on learning to draw. Drawing is more that outlines of shapes. Ian Roberts does a great job of showing the importance of drawing. Proko offers great classes of drawing in different style. 

  • I think being able to work different styles expresses a certain level of complete mastership (i don't know of that is even a proper english word) but i am very impressed by the work on your website @KingstonFineArt
  • edited November 17
    Thank you Jerry.
    I've lived in a world where it was essential to have a lot of tools in the bag. What everyone of the folks I worked for or with had was a foundation art background. Early on I worked for guys who went to The Art Center College, Pratt, Cooper Union, MFA Museum School and RISD. The best of the applied art schools. Highly motivated WWII vets educated on the GI bill mostly. I was an ant in a big field. I was lucky to have learned from those giants. All though my career I was blessed to have mentors of the highest caliber. It was great fun learning and working.
  • @KingstonFineArt thanks for you reply i think what you describe means also putting ego aside and let giants educate you which will happen when they see you absorbing,  using their advice to the best of your ability. What you may call luck likely also means many many hours of hard work where it is unsure if this will pay off. When i worked as an academic researcher i had the chance to learn from some fantastic people, recognisable greatness by their willingness to help and explain you how to do better.  ;)
  • I started thumb nailing my challenge to myself. Then I got side tracked into a big scanning project. In trying to make some space in my flat files I discovered a lot of my old work from the 70s and 80s. About 500 or so mostly humorous illustrations. I'm at about 230 now. When Im done I can toss a lot of the tear sheets.

    Over Thanksgiving I thought a lot about my early days as an artist. I was with several of my old work mates at one to their houses. I thought of the Trompe l'oeil project. I couldn't really think of 'high brow' imagery. I am visualizing many cigarettes. Cans of beer. Many cans. My fancy French ashtray. Razor blades and exact knives. My 1930s electric pencil sharpener. Ebony pencils. Air-brush compressors and air brushes. Pads of paper. Bristlol, layout rag, tracing and ledger bond. And endless magic makers and their smell. Circular proportion wheels. Type binders. Drafting tables and lights. Rubber cement and thinner. Millions of colored pencils. None of the art just the tools. ??

    I have a lot of this stuff here in the studio and a lot more. 

    I gotta get the scanning done first. The scans all have to be squared up and added and tagged in a gallery on my web sight. It's been quit a jog down old memory lane. I didn't remember all the work I'd done. I am getting old after all. How crazy some of the work was. How much I miss the humor. What happened to humor?

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