|From A Photograph|
The first digital camera I ever bought is sitting here in front of me. It's an HP Photosmart. It doesn't say it, but if I recall it has 3.5 mega pixels. Yeah, I know... they make cigarette lighters with more pixels than that these days. It's fairly small. It's lightweight.
It's pure evil.
I bought this thing about ten years ago, and I thought it would serve me well. The only problem with it is that it got me hooked on using photos for my paintings. Let me tell you, that monkey has been heavy on my back.
I mentioned in Part I that I didn't use photos much in my early years of painting because they were so dreadful, what was the point? The colors were brutal, the perspective all off, I might as well have used a kindergartner's drawing for reference. Ah, but this digital thing was a little different. Even though it is still pretty bad by today's standards, compared to a Pocket Instamatic, it was perfection. I could zoom in on details (to a point that the pixels allowed me). I could color correct. Best of all, I could see right off the bat if I didn't like the photo. If I didn't like it, I could take another shot. And it stored up to a hundred pictures in it's memory. I can't remember a hundred words-- but I digress... Anyway, that's a whole lotta polaroids! I use a separate hard drive to store my photos (and I back them up on CD's). In the past four years I have taken over 14,000 photographs. Except for the obligatory birthday pic's, each one was of something I thought might be a good painting. Of course, after I showed the kids their birthday pictures, I'd delete them. (The photos, not the kids...)
I originally thought I'd use pictures only occasionally, you know, just to help me with the details of a scene. Oh, sure, I knew the hazards that photos presented, but I was going to be different. I wasn't going to let them be my crutch. But a little soon became a lot. It got to be so bad, I couldn't make a grocery list without taking photos first. As a matter of fact, I relied on photos so much, I even set up my studio to accommodate my "Photo Jones":
But, like every addiction, I knew deep down that I was wrong in "using". Worst of all was that my ability to imagine colors was completely gone. I used to be able to imagine a sunrise scene, and paint the colors fairly accurately, drawn from my memory of observation. Then it got to be that if I didn't have a photo of it, I'd be lost. I would even pass up painting beautiful scenes because I knew I wouldn't be able to get a good photo of it. And heck, if I can't get a photo of it, I can't paint it, right? It wouldn't have been so bad if I wasn't always aware of the limits that photos have. It's like smoking cigarettes. If you started smoking back in the day when they were considered "healthy" then you have an excuse for smoking. For everyone else-- no excuses. I have long known how photos skew reality.
I think I'll use Part III on how cameras screw you up, and how I have struggled to try and end my addiction. But I need a smoke break...