Three Powerful Benefits of Photographing Your Art Throughout the Creative Process (Online art lesson # 79)

It’s so easy to take good photos of your paintings.  We snap away with digital cameras and edit on our computers.  We know immediately if we “got it” or not.

Margaret Bobb "Ballet de Fleur" series - acrylic - Alium stage #9

Margaret Bobb – acrylic – Alium; final stage.  “Ballet des Fleurs” series. You’ll love seeing the stages that led up to this. (below)

It used to be that artist’s took slides and bracketed to help insure proper exposure.  We were always reluctant to bracket because of limited budgets.  Then we used silver tape and framed out each slide by hand because it was rare that a piece was the same proportion as the slide frame. And when you sent those slides to someone, they were gone – often forever.  It used to be tedious, but now it is almost effortless to photograph paintings in progress, and the benefits can be far reaching…

1. If your painting comes out well, you can use the photos of the stages to create a lecture, demo, or article.

2. If your work seems to have “gone downhill”, you can refer to a photo of an earlier state, figure out what it was that gave it that special something,  and get ideas about how to recreate that quality.  Often when you try that special something again, you can come back to it at a higher level than before.  If you are about to make a risky move on your piece, take a photo first.  This has proven an invaluable tip to many of my students.

3.  Re-visiting the stages can be fascinating and informative, especially if your process has lots of surprise twists or reductions.  In the 1930s Matisse hired a photographer to document his progress on certain paintings and these photos  have been educating and delighting viewers ever since.  If you get a chance, see the  show at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC .  “Matisse embraced the opportunity to put his process on display and in so doing, dispelled the notion that he worked spontaneously.”

If you can’t get to New York, you can study benefit #3 by looking at the stages below by Margaret Bobb, a regular at the Oasis .  She started with a plein air painting in my garden last spring and then let it change as her inner voice encouraged.
the alium in the garden - the painting was started en plein air

Margaret Bobb - acrylic, Alium, stage #1

Margaret Bobb – acrylic, Alium, stage #1

Margaret is currently showing this and other pieces in the “Ballet des Fleurs” series at  Answers to Health  (720) 340-4435

Margaret’s website

Margaret Bobb - acrylic, Alium, stage #2

Margaret Bobb – acrylic, Alium, stage #2

Margaret Bobb - acrylic, Alium, stage #3

Margaret Bobb – acrylic, Alium, stage #3


Margaret Bobb - acrylic, flower stage

Margaret Bobb – acrylic, flower stage 4

As always, click on any photo to enlarge it.


To see the rest, click on this tab

Margaret Bobb - acrylic, flower stage

Margaret Bobb – acrylic, flower stage 5


Margaret Bobb - acrylic, flower stage

Margaret Bobb – acrylic, flower stage 6


Margaret Bobb - acrylic, Alium - flower stage 7

Margaret Bobb – acrylic, Alium – flower stage 7



Margaret Bobb "Ballet de Fleur" series - acrylic - Alium stage #9

Margaret Bobb “Ballet de Fleur” series – acrylic – Alium stage #8

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23 Responses to Three Powerful Benefits of Photographing Your Art Throughout the Creative Process (Online art lesson # 79)

  1. Ilene says:

    Wonderful! I do this regularly anyway. It’s a great learning tool and reference tool as well. And Margaret’s painting is lovely!

  2. Nyla witmore says:

    I find it helpful not only to take “in progress” photos , but then to mail these to friends…along with my thoughts and decisions in solving the problems. The feedback is often interesting and feedback exposes things I missed. Sometimes things I thought were problems actually were NOT. It might have been something nearby, but was not where I though the problem was. I like this because the feedback is so so “feeding” to me. I send the “finished work” (including a few of the “before” stages) to my valued fellow artists. We all end up growing heaps. (And with art being such a solitary “sport”, it keeps me interacting and more social.)

  3. Nyla witmore says:

    P.S. Margaret Bob’s dedication and diligence have really paid off. The painting just kept getting more interesting and sophisticated…and really “accomplished.” You go girl!!!

    • Dear Nyla…my Denver plein air buddy! Thank you so much for your kind, encouraging comment. It means so much to me! I have never thought about mailing photos of paintings in progress to other artists…however, I DO keep the painting I’m working on in sight. I prop it up either in the kitchen or living room, and when I pass by it, I stop and contemplate it a bit..and then I see what it needs. Sometimes, I completely put it away, and then when I take it out to work on it again, I will see what it needs straightaway! Sometimes, it doesn’t need as much as I thought! …Lillian has told us about the little painting pixies and elves who come and work on your pieces when you are not looking ~ LOL! I’ve had that happen, too. You Know…like when one just gets too mentally involved in a piece and needs a break from it. Then, when one gets it out, it wasn’t so bad after all!

  4. Thank you soooo much for the feature, Lillian. I am so blessed to have you as a teacher and mentor. The time spent in your studio always ranks up there at the top of my list! You Rock!

  5. Jenny Roberts says:

    Wow! How awesome to see each step! Thank you, Lillian, for taking the time to feature my Mom’s painting!

  6. Taree says:

    It’s wonderful to be able to see the progress of this piece and you literally watch the artwork “bloom.” I absolutely love Margaret’s work! Thanks for sharing this behind the scenes look at that process!

  7. Twyla says:

    Margaret, your work is so lovely! I am always inspired whenever I see one of your pieces!

  8. Shirley says:

    This is a gorgeous painting, Margaret. I LUV it! Can’t wait to see more.

    • Thank you, Shirley…I have lots of ideas for pieces in the Ballet des Fleurs series. I do have some other pieces I have committed to working on first, but there WILL be more in this series.

  9. Janette says:

    Margaret, Congratulations on the beautiful painting and being the featured artist!
    I loved looking at your website. Janette (we met at the NYC spring workshop)

    • Thanks, Janette! …yes, I remember you. I really, really enjoyed meeting you in NYC. You do very lovely work as well! Perhaps we shall meet again at one of Lilly’s workshops. I would like that very much!

  10. Abby says:

    Beautiful as always Margaret!! I loved seeing the transformation of this piece. It really helps someone who is not as artistic understand how much time and work is dedicated to this creative process. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you, Abby! I have posted a couple of similar little albums on my facebook page: I’ve been taking art lessons from Lillian for over 4 years now. She is a fantastic teacher. I learned to take the photos of a painting in progress from her long ago. It really “saved my bacon” on piece in particular. I waaaay overworked it, and because I had taken the photos, I was able to get back to a previous stage, and as Lillian said in the body of the blog, I think it was actually a little better. Thanks again!

  11. Debbie says:

    Love seeing the process and your painting come alive! Beautiful!

  12. Jean in NH says:

    Nice post.

  13. I can only hope someday to be at a point where anything I paint has “stages”! It was very special to see this painting mature and develop. I’ve watched Margaret mature and develop as an artist, too… And this is a very interesting website, Lillian, I will be back… to learn. I can’t seem to find anyone around here who teaches art to commoners like me. 🙂 But there is a master artist who has an open studio in his home every week. I think if I can just “get started” he and other artists will be happy to give me some feedback.

    • Thank you, Laura! If you lived close to me, I would teach you to paint. I gave my first private painting lesson to an adult last week. We both had a great time! You should go to the open studio. You will learn a LOT! Plus, I bet it will be great fun!

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