Painting a Successful Painting if Not on Location - Bright Light Fine Art
Painting a Successful Painting if Not on Location

Painting a Successful Painting if Not on Location


Painting a successful painting if you are not on location can be a challenge.  Ideally its always better to paint from life. Working from life is when you establish a connection with the subject. It is from this information that you begin to see the qualities in your subject that you want to capture. These intangibles get into your work as the excitement of painting from a live model both challenges and inspires you.

Noyers France Piece by Stacy Kamin

Here I am painting from life in Noyer’s France. The importance of working from life cannot be overstated. Your eyes see differently than a camera and that is why working from drawings or oil sketches done from life will give you better information than the dearth of information recorded by a camera. The human eye edits information and adds to the poetry of a painting.

Finished Painting by Stacy Kamin
This is the finished painting done in my studio in Los Angeles, using reference photos and my oil sketch from life to help me complete it.

Painting a Successful Painting if Not on Location

Sometimes I like to paint in situations where it is impossible to set up an easel and paint, like a kitchen scene in a restaurant, a farmers’ market, a bar scene or an interior. The best way to capture these elusive scenes is to do sketches on location. Sketch what you want to paint from different views until you think you have the information you need to do a successful painting. Use your sketches to really study the subject.

A Sketch in Spain by Stacy Kamin
This is a sketch I did on location In Spain of an interior.
Painting a Successful Painting if Not on Location
Upon returning to my studio, I completed a painting using my sketches and photo references.

Along with sketches from life, I take some photographs like the one below.

Painting a Successful Painting if Not on Location

When I am on location, I visualize what I want my successful painting to look like. This influences the kinds of sketches I do for later reference.

Usually when I get home I can’t wait to start a painting.  By the time I start working, I am visualizing the finished image in my mind.

Sometimes you may go somewhere without your sketchbook but you have your phone camera. If I study the scene visually until I see the painting in my mind’s eye, then taking a few photos is enough to stimulate my imagination when I return home, and transport me back to the scene. The photos are there to remind me of the visual scene that I experienced. 

I hope sharing my experiences about working from life and using reference material to make a painting later in your studio will help you tackle some subject matters you thought you could only paint from a photo.  For more on tutorials, visit our Painting Classes and learn more.

Stacy Kamin

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