Inspiration · Master Study

The Lady of Shalott

The Lady of Shalott (1888) by John William Waterhouse

I felt compelled to study this painting after seeing a photograph of the original taken by artist Howard Lyon. The “Google Art Project” version (which is usually the first thing to show up in search results) is a complete disaster in comparison:

(The colors are so badly distorted… I wonder how many other paintings have been ruined in the public eye by poorly taken photos like this.)

My study of the painting with close-up shot, painted in Photoshop:

Process gif:

It took me a little over 3 days to make this study. I had to stop at some point, otherwise I would have kept going forever. There is just so much to take in: the face, the figure, the drapery, the texture, the landscape, the symbolism… To fully observe and inspect everything in this painting is a journey in and of itself.

Even though I could not capture the likeness like I had hoped, I still learned a few valuable things from the process:
-There are more green, grey and yellow tones on the human face than the generic pink, orange, and brown that usually show up in photos.
-Colors in real life are not as saturated as we think. Neutral grey is the key to unifying different colors.
-The interplay of soft and hard edges makes a painting livelier and more pleasing to look at than a photograph.

I’ve always loved to emulate the feeling of traditional painting in my digital art. This study definitely helped me better understand how to achieve the effects I was looking for.

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