The Art and Science of Art Reference
When I was in art college, one of my tasks when preparing for a painting was the gathering of reference materials. If I was planning a painting containing a car, for instance, 1961 Jaguar E-Type series 1 coupe, I would locate one on the street, if I could. More likely I would head down to the nearest reference library. While in art school, mine was the Toronto Reference Library. At that time, one of the offerings of the library was a picture “morgue”. Library staff would comb through literally thousands of magazines and cut out photos or illustrations of a vast multitude of subjects.
The library categorized the images based on subject. Patrons were allowed to check out the clippings, just as you would a library book. Once I had gathered all my materials, I was able to paint my scene with a semblance of reality, depending on what scenario I had envisioned in my mind.
Goodbye film expenses
After leaving art school, I still had access to the reference library. I would supplement their morgue offerings with my own reference acquired with my 35 mm camera. The cost of film, processing and prints meant that I had to use a certain amount of discretion when obtaining reference photos, since I still had to eat.
As time progressed, I finally picked up a digital camera that gave me great results. It was pretty well the same size of my previous SLR film based cameras, but with a fixed zoom lens. At that point, when I needed to capture a particular subject for my art, film expense was no longer an issue. Now, anything that caught my attention was fair game.
I could create my own digital picture “morgue” and photograph anything that caught my interest. You never know when I might want to work those interesting street lamps from Siena, Italy in one of my paintings.