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  • Writer's pictureFrances

Turning photographs into art

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Take lots of pictures

It may seem obvious, but, as an artist I take lots of pictures. I try not to rely on free images for inspiration. It's not that I don't use free images, I do. I just prefer to use my own experiences. I do also rely on friends and family to supply me with endless scenery, since they may travel where I have not. I have not done much travelling.

Painting a good likeness

I say "painting a good likeness" because I don't think any of my work is photorealism. I can paint a very good likeness, and I do this quite often. Here is an example of a piece I have done from my own photograph.

This photo is from our "back yard", so to speak. I took it in 2017, after harvest was done. I just really liked the way this ladder looked leaning on the old granary. In fact, It still is sitting there!

I had a large, long canvas, and decided this would be a perfect subject to paint. I had not been painting for too long, a year or so.

I took my time, and quite a lot of time it took!

On the left, the picture I took

Below, four stages to done. Click on them to enlarge.

I think the painting had a good likeness to the photo. It finally found a home with someone who grew up on a farm and could relate to the scenery. I titled it "Lean On Me".

A Different Perspective

I absolutely love the phone app PRISMA. Without signing up for a paid subscription, you can still get 11 different styles plus one that changes daily. It is so much fun to open PRISMA and select one of your photos to play with. It gives you a different way of looking at your reference photo. I even use the filtered photo as my reference for painting.


I took this photo from the highway, on one of my several driving trips to and from Vancouver in 2022. I almost missed the ghost town sign. When I turned around, the "town" was closed. However I did sneak in and take a few more pictures.

I liked this perspective but knew I didn't want to just paint the picture as is.

I ran the photo through the PRISMA app on my phone and kind of liked the Mosaic look. I decided to use this as my reference photo.

I got the basic layout done. I'm an impatient painter

After adding a bit more color, I decided I wanted to see how the black lines would show up on the piece.

I was pretty happy, actually. Without adding any more color to the background, I was able to bring the buildings and grasses to life just by adding the lines.

Here, it is!

Ghost Town

12 x 16 on gallery wrapped canvas.

Using your photos in a different way

It is sometimes fun to play around with your art. I'm not hugely into mixed media, but I did have fun with a few pieces. The work originated in 2 classes I took, but the photos and all the work were my own.

Titled "Coastal Variation", this is based on a photo taken at Arbutus Cove, I believe.

The class I took, required painting the image from the photo, and then adding bits of paper and fabric to alter the image. Once dry, I went back over some of the areas with paint.

Topped off with self-leveling gel, for a fairly even texture.


This course involved saving a painting you are not happy with.

I don't think any of the original painting stayed, except for the upside-down wheat stalks.

Using gel medium photo transfer, I included other photos I have taken, such as the house on the left, and the red Camaro to the far right. You may recognize the ladder and grainary, from earlier.

Adding papers, stamping images and just having fun!.

Everything covered in a gel gloss.

When it comes right down to it

Pictures that you take, or that have been given to you by friends and family (and can be used, with their permission), provide a unique reference that no other artist has. You can manipulate the image without worrying about copy right.

I know that some of my paintings that are based on pictures, may use subject matter that others have also photographed, and painted. That's why I like taking pictures around the farm and Sturgeon County, for reference. They are unique, and I can have as much fun with them as I want.

Don't be afraid to experiment with PRISMA and collage. Take classes and learn to do something different with your photos!


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