In Part One, we took a look at the long tradition of photographers (such as Wallace Nutting) hiring artists to turn plain photographs into cherished works of art. We saw how Nutting capitalized on the desire of middle-class homeowners to own and display fine art on their walls, despite limited budgets. In Part Two, we’re going to see one example of how this tradition continues in the current day. Savvy portrait studios are turning to digital painters, just as Nutting once turned to his small army of hand-colorists. In Nuttting’s day, his colorists were all local workers, employed at his factory-like facility. Today, photographers can hire digital artists anywhere in the world, thanks to the Internet and email. For example, since my studio, A Work of Art, began back in 2004, I have worked with nearly 70 different photographers spread across 18 states.
One of my first jobs was for photographer Joan E. Stewart, in Cranberry Township, PA. Joan’s studio is about 45 minutes away, so we do almost all of our collaborating by email and over the phone.
“This portrait of two children was commissioned by their mother as a key element in a room design,” Joan says. “She wanted it to have the feel of a painting, with an impressionistic, pastel look, with the children involved in a simple activity. It was not important to her that the children’s faces be completely visible, she was truly hoping for an art piece featuring children which happened to be her own. She is thrilled with this piece.”
Joan got a strong sense, from her client, what sort of painting was desired. She took photos of the room where the painting was to hang, so I could see the color scheme and decor. Since the bouquet of lilacs in the photo was blurred, she sent along another in which it was sharp. Joan and I made sure we were on the same page, artistically, before I got started.
“Bob was able to understand the vision for this painting,” Joan says. “When we originally met about collaborating, it was clear that we had similar tastes in art, and in fact, both had a strong liking for the art of Steve Hanks. When I mentioned to him that my client liked what she had seen in a Steve Hanks book, he knew just how to proceed.”
To begin with, I swapped in the sharp-focus bouquet, and cloned out distractions such as the sapling and iron fencing. Since we had the freedom to step away from the “real” backyard setting, I thought a small pond in the corner might look nice. At Joan’s suggestion, I added a lot of flowers to the background, using colors to match the client’s decor. I also desaturated everything but the two main figures, which helps them to pop, and gave the pastel look Joan wanted.
Joan says, “Bob has been able to add another dimension to the services I can offer to my clients—something that I would love to do myself but just do not have the time. One of the most important elements of collaboration of this nature is good communication between photographer, artist, and client. Bob really listens to what I am asking for, and is very accommodating when it comes to making changes. This give-and-take is so important to the creative process!” Keep this in mind when looking for a digital artist to work with. It’s critical that your aesthetic tastes match.