Many have asked me if I paint from photographs. The answer is that I have in the past and will in the future but, it's a rare occasion.
I was involved in a show in Chicago in the late 80's with a group of young artists that are now very well known across America. Afterwards, we had dinner together and one made a sweeping statement: "Only paint from life!" Later that year, I was in Kansas City at an artist function. As we all were sitting in a circle, we were asked to introduce ourselves and say something about our work. As we worked around the circle, an artist exclaimed: "I only paint from life!" The next artist said very quietly: "I try not to limit myself." That artist was Dean Mitchell.
This last painting, "Tulip Chat," is a 12x9 oil on birch plywood. This painting was conceived from my sketchbook. During the year, I fill up sketchbooks with simple drawings that I call upon to help make my compositions for my studio work. My goal with this piece was to paint a simple "alla prima" painting of some tulip workers. As I do these small works, I become familar with the subjects and will later place them in a larger impasto painting. All I'm looking for is the essence of what is in front of me, "less is more."
I do like the creative engagement to my art, whether in the studio or plein air. For the most part, my sketches are done on location but, I will also draw from photos when the inspiration moves me. All of these simple value drawings are kept for future paintings. Some of the figures have been used in muliple paintings. Sometimes I'll pass them on to the patron who purchases my work. Now, my paintings are either from life or from my sketchbook. The photographs I use are for the purpose of drawing, not painting. What I have realized as a personal trait is that if I paint from a photo, I become a slave to that photo and my paintings become just a little too detailed for my taste. The results feel like manufacturing as opposed to fine art. If I paint from sketches, I get to invent and that's my creative outlet. "ONLY" is a dangerous word!