Daniel Novela – Photographing Oil Paintings

<a href=”http://photography.riaanroux.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Daniel-Novela.jpg”><img class=”size-medium wp-image-207″ title=”Daniel Novela” src=”http://photography.riaanroux.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Daniel-Novela-199×300.jpg” alt=”Daniel Novela” width=”199″ height=”300″ /></a> Daniel Novela

Today I was asked by <a title=”Daniel Novela” href=”http://http://www.danielnovela.co.za” target=”_blank”>Daniel Novela</a> to photograph 5 of his newest oil paintings for his online gallery at his website.  He was referred to me by a previous artist customer.

Daniel Novela is a well known artist not only in the community of Stilfontein but all over South Africa.  He has also sold artworks in New York and Belgium.  Daniel recently featured in an article in the popular SABC Entertainment Program, <a title=”Pasella” href=”http://www.pasella.com/artikels/MUIS-Stilfontein.html?articleID=926″ target=”_blank”>Pasella</a>.

The artworks I was given to photograph ranged from fairly small artworks of about 20cm x 15cm to two larger items of about 60cm x 45cm.  He needed photos that also captured the textures in the oil paintings.  He said that a number of photographers had tried to photograph his work but that he was not satisfied as the texture of the brush strokes was lost in many of the photos.  Losing the texture in an oil painting loses the dimension and identity of the artist.

Since I have done photography of oil paintings before and know how important the texture is to the artist.  I was able to provide him with photographic images that showed the texture and gave a feeling of depth to the images.  The technique is simple once you study light and how shadows form on textured surfaces.  The trick is to balance light and shadow so that shadow is not dominant.

<img class=”size-medium wp-image-208 ” title=”Daniel Novela Art” src=”http://photography.riaanroux.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Daniel-Novela_texture1-227×300.jpg” alt=”Daniel Novela Art” width=”227″ height=”300″ /> Daniel Novela Art

In many oil paintings the artists’ technique and identity is captured in the way they apply the paint to the canvas.  The type, angle and feel of every brush stroke is unique to every artist.  This is also why an artists painting is not easily copied since these brush strokes are similar to ones handwriting, which is unique to every person.  Knowing this, one can think that the texture of the oil painting then becomes quite important as an oil painting without its texture becomes just another pretty picture without an identity.  Imagine a hand written letter versus a printed letter.  A printed letter has no identity and could have been written by anyone, but a hand written letter is identifiable by the handwriting style.

<strong>The Method</strong>

If you simply use an on-board flash from even the most expensive dSLR camera, the flash would flatten the image by filling every shadow which effectively destroys the texture.  To capture the texture you need two light sources to either side of the image to purposefully create a slight shadow.  This can be achieved with diffused studio lights or strobe/flash units and/or bounce cards.  The first light source to the left would create shadows where the textures of the oil painting is lifted depending on the angle relative to the camera.  You do not want deep shadows, so the angle should not be too sharp.  But this single light source alone would leave behind harsh shadows which may become unappealing.  A second, slightly lower powered, light source to the right was used to lift the shadows without lighting them up too much.  When applied correctly the oil painting has a “glisten” to it which shows just a slight shadow and reveals the texture!

<a href=”http://photography.riaanroux.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Daniel-Novela_texture2.jpg”><img class=”size-medium wp-image-209 ” title=”Daniel Novel Texture Sample” src=”http://photography.riaanroux.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Daniel-Novela_texture2-227×300.jpg” alt=”Daniel Novel Texture Sample” width=”227″ height=”300″ /></a> Daniel Novel Texture Sample

You can click on the texture sample image for a larger view of how the texture shows on the oil painting.  There are slight shadows which just lift the texture to make it visible, but the second light source lifts the shadows with just enough light to fade the shadow without killing the texture effect.

This same lighting technique has been used to photograph works for other artists who need to see the texture in the oil paintings, but can be applied to other textured surfaces as well.  For some artists who include greater textures into their paintings with hard lifting ridges the texture is vital, so knowing how to capture the texture using light is important.  You will need to adjust the angle of the primary light source to a shallower angle when the textures are very pronounced to prevent the shadows from becoming too deep.

You can find out more about Danial Novela, his art and his life as an artist from his website at <a title=”http://www.danielnovela.co.za” href=”http://www.danielnovela.co.za” target=”_blank”>http://www.danielnovela.co.za</a>

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