Above are two reference photos from this angler's sister for this birthday gift painting. Often fisherman have memorable catches and don't have a camera handy. In the old days you just had your memories. Now we have camera phone that can take a handy snapshot. When viewed small the picture seems fine due to a visual process called closure. The details are not there but our brain fills in the gaps creating an image in our mind. Unfortunately our minds complete the missing detail based on our own experience and memory, thus your image of this angler may be entirely different than mine depending on how our minds interpret the information. For me it's even more challenging because not I have to reinterpret the image again on canvas at a much larger scale that by nature calls attention to lacking details. For studio work that's no problem, I can always look at the model more closely to see just how their laugh lines relate to their eyes or how their dimples show when they smile. All of these little details are what add to an individual's character and personality. I will often take photos in the studio and zoom in on a person's mouth or chin so I can zoom it up on my plasma display and really get the close details. For this kind of portrait I don't have the luxury of having an angler pose for me for an hour while I do the painting and you never know what the reference photos are going to show when zoomed in. That's what make so rewarding when I'm able to pull off a painting in spite of the challenges
Here you see what the phone pic looks like when it is enlarged to the same size as the painting. What is an artist to do. What kind of markings does this bass have. The client also wished the painting to have the angler without the sunglasses. I'd be guessing at this point if I didn't have any other reference. So I was supplied with a second photo of the anglers face. This picture helped but still had it's issues. First it was uploaded to Facebook. You should be aware that facebook is not a good place to store your photos. Facebook has to store millions of users pics, so they reduce the quality of each photo to save space. That means it throws away precious details in the photos. I'm still at a loss for some details around the eyes, and by the way what color are his eyes? I suggest that you save you photos somewhere in their original format before uploading them anywhere.
Now you can see the dramatic detail difference. Imagine what is possible with perfect photo reference, but I think I did a pretty nice job considering what we started with. You can probably tell that the bass looks a lot bigger. It really isn't. If you overlay the two images you will see that they are identical in scale and fin placement. I did rotate the fish slightly as it seemed the angler was holding the fish with it's back nearer the camera making it look smaller. I did flare the gill plate a slight bit more as it just looked more dynamic that way and I may have taken some artistic liberties on the belly since I couldn't really make out the contour line in the reference photo. For the markings on the fish I used another bass photo from the client as a reference to bring back the personality of the fish. Many anglers tell me that the fish in their paintings look more like they remembered their fish at the time of the catch than in their photos. Of course you just battled a monster fish and that first look is so dramatic, the colors, the flare of the gills, the iridescent sparkle of the scales, their weight in your hands. All of that emotion eventually wanes. No photo can capture it unless taken by a real pro. Somehow the paintings seem to bring it all back. I think it's because I put so much emotion into each one I create that the spirit of nature is retold in a human way that a snapshot isn't capable of.
The Gills really add drama to this image. This is usually the first thing you see when a big bass breaks water and tries to spit your hook. It's a green gold flash with this bright alarming red explosion of shaking gils and the spray of sparkling water. Every time I paint this part of the bass I just about have to clean my brushes and head for my favorite bass pond.
I'm a sucker for detail in fish and animal eyes. This close up shows the detail. My paintings are not super realistic, although everyone always tells me "they look just like a photo". They are really painterly and textured. That way when I do add a bit more detail in areas of the eye it can really make that element reach out and grab you. Sometimes this give the piece a real 3D effect that is super cool. Of course these zoomed in photos really exaggerate the paint texture and the pieces do look more photo realistic when you stand back and view them from a normal distance. Kind of works like the printed dots of a newspaper blending into text and photos when you read it.
The angler was wearing denim shorts or jeans but his shirt was long in the photo. I thought it would tighten the painting up to tuck his shirt in. These are details that are worked through during the course of a painting. In retrospect, I wish I would have painted his sunglass hanging from one pocket. I just didn't think of that at the time. Maybe they were his lucky fishing glasses or maybe he was sight fishing on that day. It would have made a neat addition to the piece and one that I'll consider in the future if we remove sunglasses in the painting.