Artworx Gallery | Contemporary Art & Gifts | Goolwa SA

Artworx Gallery - currently celebrating its 10th anniversary - is a regular award winner and the finest contemporary art gallery on South Australia's Fleurieu Peninsula.

Say "NO" to slavery!

As artists, it's easy to set ourselves up for slavery - photographic slavery.

It can begin from when we first start to paint. Automatically, we are looking to get as close to that photo as we can - it just comes naturally.  If we see a leaf, we've got to paint it and as many blades of grass as we can pick out. All of a sudden we realise that brushes just aren't made small enough for our needs and we are spending a lot of time with our faces just about touching the canvas or paper.

Some artists end up painting masterful works that, well... just look like the photograph they were taken from. It's more of a sophisticated type of slavery, a kind of masterful slavery, but still slavery.

Painting is, or should be more than replicating photographs.   Being a painter is about interpreting the world in your style, and everyone has a style, even if they don't think they have.

The trick is to never let the reference be the master. The photo wants to be the master and many artists want it that way. It's safe. By letting the photo be the master means we don't have to think artistically at all.  The colours, the tones and the composition are all there for the taking. They may be all wrong, but we don't mind because we have been true and faithful servants to the master and we are happy with that.

As artists we can do so much better than the photograph before us and this is how.

Firstly, before you start, make a decision to be in charge of the work. If there are awkward looking bits in the photo, leave them out or change them.  Move things around so they look more balanced - don't be afraid, you are allowed to do this.

Now it's time to get even braver.  See those distant objects that still look dark and sharp in the photo? Make them lighter,  blue them off and not as sharp  - your painting will come to life and still, there will be no policeman at the door.

Now for some complete and reckless disobedience.  Change the sky, add some objects from other photos, leave out some buildings completely and refuse to paint all those blades of grass you can see.  The master will be furious, but he just can't touch you!

By now, you feel in complete control. It didn't worry you at all, that you changed the shape of that silly looking branch or the colour of that roof or didn't paint any of those 100 windows in that big building.  You even added a little figure in red that wasn't in any of the photos you had!

Your finished painting doesn't look like the reference photo at all.  It actually looks more interesting and what's more it's yours, not the master's.  The tables have turned. The photos have become the servants and have submitted to the will of the new master - you the artist!

Happy Painting!
Mike Barr

Goolwa Beach Sailing Club is not what it seems. Firstly, there are no boats or sailing club on Goolwa Beach - that was my major point of disobedience. The sky was from near Willunga Hill, the figures from Semaphore and Milang and the yachts from Largs. Even the shadows were made up - complete recklessness, but it worked!


Liz and John Francis

12 Hays Street
Goolwa, South Australia

Phone: (08) 8555 0949


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