One of the techniques I’ve most enjoyed over the years is using a photo I’ve taken to spark some creative design work. It may be as simple as using it as a reference to inspire or lead me in a direction, or often I will use my digital pen/tablet for what would in real world terms be a tracing paper process (in this case using layers in Photoshop) to sketch over the opaque photograph, finding it’s lines or color blocks that draw me in. This has led to unexpected and exciting results time and time again.
In this piece I used my photograph of musician Muni Kulasinghe of the group Le Chat Lunatique and very organically roughed out a half dozen cool paintings over the original photo which I kept very faint in the background as a reference. I might bring the original photo layer’s opacity up or down throughout the process to look for cool patterns, shapes, lines etc., then eventually I’ll remove it all together.
It’s fair to say that when I first started using this technique years ago I felt like I was disregarding my drawing training in some way and should be working harder. WHY? Shouldn’t I be using the photo as a reference next to my drawing paper, make my sketch, scan it into the computer and then begin my digital painting… ? Heck no! I quickly got over this insecurity and remembered that the process of creating should be fun, natural and not involve over-thinking. I like both the end result that is achieved with this technique as well as the process.