I don’t know about you, but I love paintings of the old masters. I love the cracked, weathered canvases which were painstakingly painted with equipment that most artists nowadays would cringe at using. Paints, brushes, canvases. The ease with which we can obtain those art supplies nowadays make putting your feelings onto a canvas so much more in reach of a dabbler than was once the case. Regardless, the paintings that were produced were stunning. My favourites are of those of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood or those inspired by it. I don’t ever pretend to know a great deal about art. I only know what I like. I love the colours and the warmth of these paintings and the more I create my style of photography, I find myself noticing a similar pattern emerging.
Not necessarily the same subjects, though they do appeal but it is the colours and vibrancy I am drawn to. There are other artists that I find myself unconsciously mimicking in style. The Dutch Masters have always appealed and I guess that was the inspiration for this particular photograph. The contrast of creamy lighting against the dark backdrop is so dramatic and so prevalent in this style of painting. A few years ago, while doing a Fine Arts Course, one of our tasks was to attempt to copy the style of an old artist. I chose a viola sitting on a chair with some paintbrushes in the foreground. I don’t remember who it was by but I do remember that the article mentioned the Dutch Masters. (the original, definitely not my poor copy)
My daughter in law Sarah has this set of decorative pears at her house. I fell in love with them the first time I saw them and took a few photos of them on the bookshelf where they sat. Over the last few years, I have contemplated the photos quite a lot and played with them, never quite achieving what I wanted to do , though I didn’t even know what that was.
I knew I wanted them to be on a plain black background to make the lighting appear more spectacular and dramatic than it really was. I didn’t even have a flash at the time I took them and used the on board flash to light them so I had to make the lighting look better than it had been. I found that by darkening the rest of the photo, leaving only the pears and the shelf, the shadows of the pears along with the flaws on their skin looked much more pronounced and dramatic.
Adding contrast and clarity, I played around a lot as I didn’t want them to appear harsh which can happen using those functions. It’s so much easier using Lightroom to control where you add clarity and where you soften it using a brush, so I softened the photos a bit while keeping the clarity strong on the marks on the pears. When I was happy with the effect of the actual photo, I added a few textures. The most important one was one which had a slightly green tinge and a heavier vignette around the edges. The best part of this particular texture layer was the cracked surface which looked very like an old canvas that has crackled with age and dirt. Adding textures is really a matter of trial and error. This is where blending modes in Photoshop really become important.
It is a very simple photo but one which I really do love. I think it is in the style of the Dutch Masters who I have always admired and quietly envied their talent. I am not the most gifted painter in the world, though my viola and paintbrushes hang proudly on my wall. But when I can combine my fascination with certain styles of art, with my photography and Photoshop all in one, it sates my creative yearnings.