I am in the process of buying a new macro lens for my Canon Digital SLR. I want to be able to photograph smaller objects, objects in confined spaces and inside rooms. With my current setup I am unable to get all the information in one frame. I make do with what I’ve got and use my imagination to add any other relevant details to my artwork as needed.

I have several cameras and have been an avid photography enthusiast for decades. My primary use of my cameras is to record subjects for my artwork. I often set up objects in a still-life situation. Some of my ideas are gleamed from the many excursions I do into the Tasmanian landscape. Some of my drawings have come directly from my photos.

There is no doubting the value of the camera as far as artists are concerned. But is it also hindering our artistic development? Has it made us lazy? Does one really look at each frame before it is taken? Are we really recording what we are seeing or are we happy for the camera to see everything it can on our behalf?

Training for all artists is essential. Good teaching will instil good habits such as what to look for and what to look at and how to interpret characteristics such as mood, light and shadow, just to name a few. The “artist’s eye” is what makes artwork individual, personal and valued as art.

A camera in the hands of a competent artist is potentially a wonderful tool. It’s what the artist does with the camera that can make or break his or her response to a subject.

Many artists simply record a subject with their camera, have the image printed and then paint it. It’s as easy as that. But is this what art is really all about? Sounds like imitation to me. Is imitation really art? Where’s the individual response?

It’s what you do with your photos that counts. Using a series of images as reference material gives you a much greater chance of producing something special, not mundane. If you are working from a single photo, all you have to do is record what you see and it’s done. Admittedly we all see things differently and one could say that our responses will not imitate the photos we work from. But aren’t we trying to copy the photo? Everyone loves realism! The more we see, the more realism results. Where’s the true personal style of each artists in this method of producing art?

Today’s photos are a selection from a trip I took to Hobart last year. I wanted to recorded a series of hilltops. What is unusual is that at no time did I leave my car to take these photos.

More tomorrow.



About artkleko

artist, art curator, art teacher, art judge, art critic
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2 Responses to THE CAMERA: ALLY OR MILLSTONE? Part 1.

  1. Gillian says:

    Interesting post, Richard. I’m first and foremost a photographer and really do art as a side interest.
    Having tried colour pencil work of the photo-realistic variety I’ve become disillusioned with this whole genre. As another CP artist stated – ‘there are easier ways to make a photocopy’. I have every respect for the top photo-realist artists and the best ones use photos as reference only. Many just do straight ‘copying’ and I found myself in that league.
    I was uncomfortable with that as my own preference in art is for looser, more impressionistic styles – but how to achieve that using CPs?
    Maybe that’s why I’m sketching more now and the CPs are gathering dust!

    • artkleko says:

      Thanks Gillian for your informative response. I agree that there is far too much “photo-copying” in the world of coloured pencil. There’s too much tracing going on as well and both do nothing for the credibility of cp as a genuine form of artistic expression.
      I try and see my drawing through a painter’s eyes even though I work with cp.

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