Using a Grayscale Reference (and selling a painting)



I was getting ready to go do some face painting this morning to help raise money at the local church fair when I thought, hey, why not take my easel along and do a painting which I could sell to raise money while my goodly wife takes over the face painting?

So I printed out a black and white photo of a local beach, grabbed all my gear and headed out. On the way there I also figured the way I could sell it for the most money would be to run an ongoing auction as I painted, which worked great. I've included a photo of my fancy advertising sheet below, (phone numbers omitted). Basically I took the details of anyone who wanted to bid on the painting, and the next bidder had to bid higher to get on the list. Now, it's a really small fair - just a few cake stalls, a bouncy castle and me, with maybe 100 visitors showing up, so I was quite happy to sell the little 10x8" painting for $155 which was the top bid by lunch time. So that's one way to sell a painting eh?

The Setup
This is the setup I used - pretty fancy advertising eh!?

Auction List
A Closeup of the auction list (phone numbers omitted here for privacy).
Each new bidder had to outbid the previous bid. Lindsay came back later and outbid Clare.
You'll see on the far right that Lindsay also had a secret 'autobid' for $100 like you can do on ebay which means that she initially bids $50 but will go up to $100 if someone bids higher than her $50.
If I do this type of auction again I'll design and print a fancier auction sheet with a clearer explanation.

Anyway, what I found interesting when I got home was the difference between the colour photo of the actual scene (below) and the colours I used in my painting, so I'll let you play spot the difference there. (I always like that game.) In fact when I work from photos I often use the black and white version so that I'm not restricted by the photograph, which is always wrong anyway because it doesn't capture the colours we see in real life, especially in scenes like this with high contrast.

Waipu Cove Summer
'Waipu Cove Summer' 10x8" Acrylic on Canvasboard

Waipu Cove - Photo
The reference photo - but I worked from a black and white version as you can see on my easel above.


Waipu Cove - Photo   Waipu Cove Summer

Spot the colour difference between the photo and the imagined colours in my painting.

The more you paint in nature the better you get at understanding colour and being able to add-lib like this from a black and white reference. It's very freeing for an artist and a lot more fun than blindly copying a colour photograph. Next time you are considering painting from a photo, why not give yourself the benefit of the doubt and try working from a black and white image? You might be pleasantly surprised.

All the best with your painting,



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Comment by Steinunn Einarsdottir on June 16, 2012 at 2:49

What a great idea and a beautiful painting Richard.

Comment by Jane Albin on February 10, 2012 at 13:39

Your painting is awesome.  I really like the color charges also. 

This is such a great idea Richard. I am going to try it out for my favorite local museum during the town's art festival in April.  Thanks!

Comment by Matt Sisk on February 6, 2012 at 15:06

That is awesome Mate! Way to use God's gifts to give Him glory! nice work too:)

Comment by diane boucher on February 5, 2012 at 7:05
Love the colour changes in the Waipu study you used:-) :-)
Comment by diane boucher on February 5, 2012 at 7:04
Using the black and white version of the photo of my set up for my fruit so I was not confused by the pattern in my dish was what I was atempting to do:-) I see I have posted the painting I did in grey scale instead of my photo in grey scale oops you are right Richard Not! However it certainly helped and I noticed my colours were quite different to the actual study. For better or not:-)
Comment by Rose Herczeg on February 5, 2012 at 4:32

Love this, what a great idea!!!

Comment by debbie piro on February 4, 2012 at 22:34

good work.

Comment by Montalvo on February 4, 2012 at 20:41

I have never tried painting from a b/w foto. I'll put it in my bucket list of things to do. Painting came out nice.

Comment by Julie Wickham on February 4, 2012 at 20:21

Great idea Richard - and congrats on raising the $ - every cent and $ counts.


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