Painting from Photo References Is Key to Capturing the City Life She Loves
With a self-control borne out of experience, Russian artist Olga Litvinenko knows when to forge ahead and when to scale back in her glowing watercolor cityscapes that express her love of city life. “I try to let my watercolors glow—to live their lives, so to speak,” she says. “I want to catch the beautiful moments, convey a warm glow of light, and create a world on the edge between dream and reality. Maintaining the freshness of transparent watercolor is most important to me.
“Walking around the city and observing the interesting stories of urban life is the pursuit that has captured my attention at the moment. I make a lot of small drawings and sketches of city scenes—as well as specific architectural details—both in the open air and in the studio,” she says. But painting from photo references is key too. “I use the most successful elements of these sketches as the basis for a painting. But I also need the help of reference photos to draw individual objects accurately, such as architecture, trees and roads, so I take a lot of pictures on my walks as well.”
In the studio
When in the studio, Litvinenko does a number of sketches before attempting any painting of complexity. It provides a road map for how to build the painting, stroke by stroke, and also helps the artist loosen her hand and warm up.
Painting from Photo References
Litvinenko takes a lot of preliminary photos on her walks around the city. She focuses on taking pictures of:
-Details. She may not incorporate detail later, but it helps to look at detailed snapshots to refresh her memory.
-Perspective. In the city, roads twist and turn, buildings have unique profiles, and you can only be at one place at one time. Walking a scene and taking a lot of photos helps give you the best impression of a place.
-Visual rhythm. Sometimes places just have a “beat” to them. Taking pictures of cars, elevated power lines, windows on the side of a building–all of these can make that “beat” come alive for you in the studio.
Explore your cities, towns, suburbs, farms, and backyards with sketchbooks in hand. Make color stories; paint or draw the textures and shapes that catch your eye. But don’t forget to take a ton of reference photos too! They will be invaluable to you in the studio and with From Photos to Fantastic: Painting Watercolor Landscapes you will discover how to turn painting from photo references into an easy, fun way of working. Iain Stewart shows you how and you’ll have a strong, engaging composition in no time! Enjoy!
P.S. If you love Olga Litvinenko’s work, see more in this issue of Watercolor Artist.