As a child, and budding artist, one of my favorite pastimes was watching my aunt paint. A local favorite at exhibitions and fairs, her floral and landscape watercolor paintings hang in numerous homes, businesses and even the local hospital. I remember watching with fascination how she would somehow quickly transform slides she had taken of my mother’s beautiful garden, or of a lone barn in a weedy field, and use her old-fashioned projector to transfer the images to her paper. It seemed like magic to me at the time.
When I began taking art classes in high school and college, my instructors were never too keen on using a projector. Instead, we were taught a laborious method of drawing grids in order to form the basis for our paintings. Even with the grids, my paintings always seemed a bit “off”. One instructor insisted we use charcoal in order to trace our initial idea – what a mess that was! After years of working with these methods, I’ve gone back to my aunt’s method, and use a projector to start my projects.
It’s not that I can’t “draw from scratch”, it’s more that it just saves so much time. There is a reason that many commercial artists use this method, even though they are skilled enough to draw or sketch freehand. Using a projector is just a tool that helps me get a starting point, similar to how The Masters used the Camera Obscura to guide them. Also, I like painting in a large format, so taking my small photo or sketch and trying to translate it to a large canvas on my own is hit or miss. I have many artist friends who specialize in photo-realism who use projectors, such as the KopyKake 300XK Artist Opaque Projector to accurately resize, position, and block in the basics before refining their image and adding detail. They work from photographs they’ve taken, and their final results are amazing.
My technique is a bit different. I create small paintings on my iPad, or take pictures with it, then download them to my computer where I manipulate them with PhotoShop. Then I print them out, and finally, enlarge them with the projector. I have found that following this process has allowed me to save a lot of time, rather than trying to resize my images with grids or freehand. It provides a strong base for my rather abstract paintings and portraits, and I can get on to the part I enjoy the most – the actual mixing of colors and the painting itself. Getting the proportions, perspective and scaling under control quickly is definitely a time-saver.
I have other artist friends who exclusively paint murals, and for them using a projector is a must, in order to get the perspective and proportions of their trompe l’oeil projects. For them, their projector is invaluable. While I know artists who insist on starting from scratch, for me (while I could freehand everything), I think that following my successful aunt’s example and using a projector as a tool enhances my creativity and saves me valuable time when laying the groundwork for a new painting.
Until Next Time,