Experimentation: Photographs into watercolour

Following on from my book review, Post-photography: The artist with a camera, where I referenced the work of Chen Nong, I decided to try a little experiment.

Chen Nong, creates elaborate staged scenes, which he then prints in black and white and colours by hand using watercolour paints.  I loved this idea, and since I recently bought a small watercolour set for my children, I thought I could try it out with one of my own photographs.

I had a quick look through my archive, and settled on a photograph of a castle.  I opened the image in Photoshop, and converted it to black and white, carefully adjusting the individual colour sliders in order to get an image that could be painted over.  I then printed it onto watercolour paper.

Perhaps the thing that I liked the most about Chen Nong’s work, was his surreal colour palette.  None of his paintings look real.  They are full of fantastical colours, which is something that I wanted to replicate in my experiment.

With this idea as a starting point, I cautiously got to work.  My first thought about watercolour painting, was that if I plan to do more of this, then I really do need to invest in better brushes because the one that was supplied with the set was just awful.  That said, the awful brush pushed me to further in my experimentation by using my fingers to combine colours on the page, a process that I really enjoyed and was quite effective.

In the end, I was fairly pleased with my first attempt at applying watercolours to a photograph.  I think I have achieved the fantastical look that I set out for.  In fact, the picture reminds me of the Lord of the Rings films, when Frodo is wearing the one ring (just a bit more colourful).  Interestingly, I do really enjoy sci-fi and fantasy stories (both films and books), and I think that I can see their influence at work here, which is not something that I expected when I started out.  It was obviously subconsciously done.

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