Inspiration & Transformation II

In my previous blog I presented two questions when beginning any painting, “How can I make this better?” and “How can I make it communicate what I want to say?”  Whether it begins as an image in our mind, in front of us from real life, or from a reference photo, these questions are paramount to a successful painting.

Since many of my paintings incorporate wildlife, I must frequently rely on quickly taken photos to capture the moment.  Rarely, if ever, are these photos usable as stand-alone photos.  Many times, they have been taken through a car window, panning rapidly to try to keep up with an animal that is running/flying, or including an environment that is not ideal for a finished painting.  Therefore, my reference photos serve as the initial inspiration only. 

Take for example an unexpected encounter this Spring.  On a drive to visit my parents, we spotted a flock of swans pausing to rest in a bare field before they continued their migration Northward.  In anticipation of these types of moments, I almost always have my camera at my side.  My husband pulled over for a few minutes so I could snap some quick photos.  Then on our return visit home, he drove back the same route just in case they were still in the field.  Not only was I able to get photos as they rested, but also as they took flight.   

Tracey's photo of the swans in flight.
The second of Julie's photos of swans in flight.

As seen in the photos, overcast light and muddy fields were not the most inspiring for a dramatic painting.  But with about 30 photos at my disposal, I was ready to address the questions of “what did I want to communicate” and “how could I make it better.”

I worked out several designs through small (2×3”) thumbnail sketches and have already selected 4 designs for paintings. 

Tracey's first swan sketch.
Tracey's second swan sketch.
Tracey's third swan sketch.

That single day’s chance encounter has provided so much inspiration that I cannot say how many paintings will result.  But it is exciting to consider where the transformations will lead. 

Tracey's first completed painting of swans in flight, named Aria.
Tracey's second completed painting of swans in flight, named Allegro Fantasia.
Allegro Fantasia

Keep your eyes ever vigilant.  Keep your camera handy.  Have a sketchbook at the ready.  You never know where you will find inspiration.  Maybe it will be standing in a muddy field.  You just never know.

Achieving Enlightenment

For a painting to work effectively, it should include a range of values as well as a variety of warm and cool colors. In addition, color harmony will be more successfully achieved when utilizing a limited palette.

An Artist’s Handwriting

Your handwriting is as unique and distinct as you are. Regardless of how we were taught to write, we each develop our own style. Immediately recognizable to those who know us.

A blog from artist, Tracey Maras.

I Don’t Remember It Looking Like That

The sky is filled with the dance of so many colors.  You quickly snap some photos to capture the moment, thinking to yourself about how you are going to create a painting to memorialize this moment.

A blog from Tracey Maras.

When Local Color Isn’t Enough

Sometimes I just don’t want to use what nature gives.  Sometimes I just don’t want to use local color.  Don’t get me wrong.  The world is filled with infinite beauty and inspiration.  But sometimes I just don’t want to paint a blue sky and green leaves.

Confetti Pastels

Do you like surprises?  Do you embrace moments of serendipity and happy accidents?  “Confetti Pastels” can add to your excitement.

How long did it take?

The question that every artist hears at some point is “How long did it take you to paint this?”.  It can be a very complex question to answer.  Is the inquiry to determine the financial value of the piece?  Does the answer somehow determine the quality of the painting?

Inspiration & Transformation

Inspiration can come from anywhere and at any time.  But rarely does our source of inspiration provide us with perfection.

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4 Responses

  1. I especially enjoy reading your posts, Tracey. You’ve taught me so much that I can relate to. And I love your animal paintings. If only I could capture the soul of my subjects the way you do!

  2. As a fellow wildlife pastelist, I appreciate your comments on using photos as inspiration and a guide! Your swan paintings turned out beautifully…you can sense the flapping and soaring!

    1. Thank you Lori! Over the past few years I’ve discovered that if I paint wildlife with a a little looser hand, it helps impart a sense of motion. In the past, attempts to capture every detail imparted in the photo resulted in a static feeling. And if you zoom in on the image, you’ll see that I’ve created a textured ground/surface which also imparts movement. We can take a painting into so many exciting directions if we give ourselves permission to break away from the reference photo.

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