Painting And Photography / by Geoff Harrison

I still encounter the occasional individual who insists that to be a true landscape painter, one must paint outdoors, en plein air, to use the popular vernacular.  Whilst I accept that painting outdoors can be a useful exercise in that it encourages rapid, spontaneous work due to the ever changing light, en plein air painting only became fashionable in the mid nineteenth century because for the first time it became possible to do so easily.  This was due to three inventions; the paint tube, the foldaway easel and the train.  Suddenly a painter could hop on a train with his/her portable painting kit.

But painting in the studio has certain practical advantages.  It give artists the opportunity to impose their own deliberations on a scene, that is, changes to the composition, decisions on light, the time of day, and how they feel in that scene.

I photographed the scene below at Melbourne's Botanical Gardens in May 2016 and I've had a few friends insist I should paint it.  But for me, there is nothing I could do to enhance this scene as for me it has everything.


Botanic 16.jpg

This scene has a balanced composition, tranquility, a certain wistfulness, even mystery.  There is nothing in this scene I would want to alter in any way.

The painting below was completed in late 2017.  In the photograph I used as a reference, the sky is completely white.  This gave me the opportunity to play with various lighting effects and to decide on the time and type of day and how I felt looking across the meadow to the trees and beyond.

Beyond The Meadow 1.jpg

Recently, a gallery director told me he has far fewer sales when holding a photography show compared to a painting show.  It appears the average patron thinks he or she can achieve the same results with their smart phone.  My response would be to say "OK. lets see you do it".  People just don't understand that taking a successful picture involves more than 'point and shoot'.  It's a matter of education and I really don't know where you would start.