Painting from life - an inspiring connection

Updated: Feb 21, 2021

I love to paint from life. Some readers might wonder - why bother when there are cameras ? Can't I just use a photo-reference? Well, of course you can and I use photography as well if I need to for certain occasions. However, whenever I have the possibility I would always choose to paint from life - at least in the beginning stages. Though painting can be a lone business (which I do happen to like!) creating a connection to the subject that's painted is crucial to bring out the best of the work. It's like with the current Covid-19 pandemic and the sudden wide use of digital-connections all over the world. Yes, you can meet people online, yes I can see them and sure, it's better than nothing. Here you might feel the same as me - it's nice to have but it can never replace the true connection of meeting people in person, face to face. The same is true for painting.

I love to be in touch with my models, chat with them and find out which kind of personality they are. The eye itself is a wonderful tool to do the job of observation best - to catch all the subtleties and the sensitivity of the present moment. Also, the beauty of still-lifes in subtle lighting is so much more captivating through the human eye than via a camera lens. Simply said: the live situation inspires me in a way a photo usually cannot - hence it influences the mood of my art. Once I have started from life, I can often proceed painting in my studio with a photographic reference, and -most important- without any, to let the painting guide me to what it needs to unravel it's harmony to the fullest.

Teapot and Onions oil painting by Johanna Hattner
Teapot and Onions - painted from life.

Is there a drawback to painting from life? That depends on your personality and your perspective, I'd say. Yes, I have had some fruit that started to look really bad because I took a bit longer for the painting...but that is usually an exception. Especially when Models are sitting for me, I find it quite taxing to have only a limited amount of time. I am then giving my best to be effective without loosing the touch or starting to rush. Taking time to observe is key.

How taxing it might be - the energy of the live situation also infuses the artwork with a vivid connection in a unique way. I wouldn't want to miss that, would you?

Have a lovely day,


"Paintings are a sanctuary for the mind"

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