plein air landscape painting
Painting From Life vs. From Photos

“I walked into my new studio and this was the view, these water towers – which are typically New York. I thought, ‘yeah I should do that.'”

In early 2005 Dan Bodner changed the focus of his artwork from the human figure (painted from life or imagination) to cityscape. At the same time he began to use digital photography to study his subjects and his own work.

Bodner often makes photographs under conditions that would be difficult to paint from life, like the night scene above, or snow storms. He is in particular interested in the effects of city lights on the sky. From a large number of photos he selects a sample which he studies by making pencil drawings.

The drawings are not direct copies, but interpretations that combine elements from more than one photo. After he finds the composition, Bodner makes small oil sketches to study color. Then he makes a large painting based on all of these elements. In the end, some paintings are similar to the original photographs, others diverge substantially from the source images.

Photographs are not only Bodner’s subjects, but a way to study his own work. He has found that by making a photograph of a painting, he can see it as though looking for the first time. As Bodner explains, “By making the photographs daily, I can get a distance from the work as I’m painting it.”

Photography is associated with all aspects of Dan Bodner’s cityscape artwork, a connection which he finds appropriate. Bodner explains:

I want to use photography as a source for my work because we cannot separate how we see from the way photography has informed our vision. I think photography allows painting to be what it is today.

first part of this interview