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Old 04-20-2004, 08:32 AM   #1
Richard Budig Richard Budig is offline
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How do you get from photo to canvas?




I'm curious how you get your work from photo to canvas. A method used by painters of old was to do a sketch, and use a method called "squaring up" to transfer it from sketch pad to canvas.

Squaring up (it may have other names) is a process of drawing a grid across the sketch and drawing a larger (but same proportion) grid on the canvas, and then drawing in each square on the canvas the thing that is in that square on the sketch. (Fear I haven't said that well. Is everyone confused?)

When working from photos, this is a method I often use. I was wondering if anyone has a better system.
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Old 04-20-2004, 10:36 AM   #2
Michele Rushworth Michele Rushworth is offline
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There are four methods I know of.

One is to freehand draw it. Another method is to use a grid like you were describing. A third method involves using an opaque projector. A fourth method involves putting thin paint on the back of the photo and tracing through it onto the canvas.
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Old 04-20-2004, 11:05 AM   #3
Mary Sparrow Mary Sparrow is offline
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I have often wondered about this, I have done it three of the ways Michelle describes and flip flop between the methods depending on my mood.

I have noticed that people seem to frown upon the use of projectors and I understand the reasons why, however, what I don't understand is why that would be any different from using the grid method or that last method Michelle mentioned. They are all forms of tracing.

Maybe I am mistaken and more people use projectors than I thought?
I have found that my projector stinks and distorts things,probably because is it a cheap piece of junk. I do use it to help me decide how big to make an image on the canvas, then I will take a pencil and mark spots with dots to help me with easy placement, then sketch from there which saves me a lot of time. Is this considered "cheating"?
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Old 04-20-2004, 12:20 PM   #4
Michele Rushworth Michele Rushworth is offline
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Quote:
...my projector stinks and distorts things.
I think that's why many people don't like to use projectors.
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Old 04-20-2004, 12:40 PM   #5
Garth Herrick Garth Herrick is offline
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I have a large sheet of home made carbon paper, I use over and over. It's a sheet of tracing paper rubbed over with a conte crayon; occasionally it needs renewing. Over this I position a photo reference printed on very thin paper, over the photo I place a very thin sheet of acetate to protect the photo reference, and through all this I trace with a glass pen for sharp clean gray lines. This process works best on an oil primed canvas, as the lines need no fixing whatsoever.

The main downside I find for myself is if I draw in too much minute detail, it tends to hamper being able to paint broadly at first because I am worried about losing/hiding all the traced lines.

Another approach which seems to avoid this problem is the technique Thomas Eakins apparently used. He simply placed a small dash or line to mark an edge, corner, or peak of a curve, and connected all the dots as he painted. This way you can paint broadly at first, and hone in on the detail by eye later.
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Old 04-20-2004, 03:35 PM   #6
Garth Herrick Garth Herrick is offline
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Another method if you don't wish to eat up printer ink is to trace off your computer monitor (Carefully! You don't want to damage that flat screen surface). Scale the image on the monitor to 100% of the scale of your painting. The way I do this is to scale the reference image file to the same dimensions as the painting in Photoshop/ Image/ Image Size: Set the Resolution to 96 Pixels/Inch, then set the width or height to match your painting size; press OK. Now when you set the image scale on the Navigator menu to 100%, it should be in the same scale as your painting.

NOTE: This may need tweaking to the particular monitor reolution you are using. I am using 1280 x 1024 pixels monitor resolution (17 inch Apple Studio Display flatscreen LCD), and this recipe should work for this size monitor and resolution setting.

Overlay a sheet of tracing paper, trace what you need. Remove the tracing and lay the drawn side face down and go over every line with a soft pastel. Then lay the sheet over the desired part of the painting, with the pastel side to the canvas, and trace the lines again to transfer the pastel. It looks like a snapped chalkline. If the positioning or registration is wrong, wipe it off and tranfer again.
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Old 04-20-2004, 04:03 PM   #7
Mike McCarty Mike McCarty is offline
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Let's say you have a photo which is 8" x 10", a size large enough to read and commonly printed by photo processors or on your home printer. Let's say then that you want your painting to be 20" x 25". Your painting in this case is 2.5 times the size of your reference. The photo could be any size large enough to read and the painting, theoretically, could be any size up or down from that.

Pick a point on your reference, say the inside corner of the right eye, measure the distance in from the left side of the edge of the photo. Multiply that distance by 2.5 times and make an approximate (up or down) "light" mark on your canvas at that point. Then measure from the top of the photo again to the inside corner of the right eye. Multiply that measure by 2.5 then make that mark in conjunction with the previous light mark. You now know precisely where the corner of the right eye will be on your expanded (whatever sized) canvas.

You make a few more marks, edge of the mouth, tip of the nose etc, etc., and before long you have enough to sketch the balance.

Good thing is, no matter how much paint you put on the canvas, you can always get back to that perfect spot which is the inside corner of the right eye, or, the outside edge of the left cheek, or, whatever.

I think you could go from an 8x8, 8x10, 8x12, whatever your composition may be, as long as it's large enough to easily read and handle, to a billboard using this method.
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Old 04-20-2004, 04:30 PM   #8
Garth Herrick Garth Herrick is offline
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Mike, That's an excellent technique.

Here is another Photoshop variation I use:

First scale the reference image file in Photoshop to the same dimensions as your painting (in whatever units of measurement you prefer). In the top menu under View, select to view Rulers,which gives you a ruler scale on the left and top of your image window. Wherever you place the cursor you will see its measured position in the scales to the edge.

Say you need to know the position of the inside corner of the right eye. The cursor, placed over that point indicates perhaps 10.75 inches down from the top, and 16.25 inches horizontal from the left side. All you need to do is copy those measurements with a tape measure on the canvas to mark the point down from the top and from the left, and there's the precise spot for that inside corner of the right eye.

This is the same principal as Mike's photo scaling above, except that you always have the convenience of a 1:1 scale ratio.
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Old 04-20-2004, 04:50 PM   #9
Allan Rahbek Allan Rahbek is offline
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I`ve always used Mike
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Old 04-20-2004, 05:29 PM   #10
Mike McCarty Mike McCarty is offline
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I have done some very complex drawings in this fashion, including hands and difficult perspective renderings.

One thing that helps me a great deal in this regard is the ruler that I use. It is a 16 inch ruler measured in tenths of an inch. Along with each tenth being indicated with numbers up to 160. I will typically measure to within a half (20th of an inch) of the indicated marks.

I will also create a spread sheet with the calculations to the scale I am working on with a precision to a twentieth of an inch. So as I make my measurement on the photo, I can glance over at my printed spread sheet and quickly get the translated equivilent. If I'm working from an 8x10 to a 16x20 I can do the math in my head but if I am going up by 2.37, well, my mind just isn't that quick.

Within an hour or so I can complete a drawing and be very confident of the accuracy. But, as mentioned above, the drawing gets screwed up, and this is where this method comes in handy. You can be as bold as you want with your paint onto the original drawing knowing that you can get back to any point with confidence.
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