“When I started PaintMyPhoto, I had no idea if anyone else would be interested in the idea. It turns out quite a few people were.”
So says Roy Simmons of the website he started January 27th, 2010. There are presently 23,103 members of Paint My Photo and the number grows daily.
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What is PaintMyPhoto?
Simply put, it’s a place where artists and photographers come together to be creative. Photographers post images they hope will inspire artists, and artists post the artwork they create from those photographs. The variety of photographs available is endless—as are the artistic interpretations.
And sure, we all know there are billions of images online. . . but many of them are copyrighted and unavailable for artists to use.
Tracking down copyright information is a time-consuming and tedious that task that sometimes ends with “No, you may not use my image” and sometimes ends with, “Yes, of course you can use my image. The fee is _____.”
Tracking down a photographer and getting permission to use his or her work to create a portrait can sap the energy out of a painting. It can also be costly, with right-to-use fees ranging from twenty bucks to triple digits, depending on the photographer and the popularity of his or her work.
For the artist who doesn’t bother worrying about copyright, there’s always the possibility of having the resulting artwork challenged by the photographer or others. It’s not uncommon for artists to receive a cease and desist order from a lawyer, and in some cases, even lawsuits.
Simmons is a long-time artist himself and has been through the effort of contacting photographers. While he often had positive results, he saw the need for a community where photographers and artists could join forces without the hassle of dealing with copyright. PaintMyPhoto (often shortened to PMP by its users) is the result.
How does PMP work?
Photographers all over the world, many of them professional or professional caliber, upload images to the PMP website. Because the styles and interests of the photographers are so varied, the collection of images is also varied, ranging from traditional to experimental.
Artists can browse images by subject as well as by keyword. When they find something they like, they can “favorite” that image, which puts it in a special folder for easy review and retrieval. When they find something they want to paint or draw, they’ll just right-click to view the image at full size and then save it to their hard drive. It’s as simple as that.
Once the artwork is finished, the artist can upload a picture of it. All types of “natural artwork” are represented on PMP. Digital artwork is not included because, according to the PMP website, “. . .there are many, many sites for those with that interest.”
Membership is free to any artist or photographer. Although it’s encouraged, members do not need to upload their own photography or artwork in order to participate. The website is run and maintained through member donations either on a one-time basis or by monthly subscription.
Special features and member resources
Every month, PMP hosts a painting challenge. The theme varies month to month. In February, for example, the challenge was painting or drawing a mountainous or hilly landscape with at least one animal somewhere in the artwork.
Past themes include colors in abstract shapes, Christmas decorations, sea creatures, and metal. Prizes vary from books on art subjects, earning a place on the cover of the website newsletter, or being featured on the website’s masthead.
Challenge guidelines are straightforward. Artwork must be completely finished before it’s posted, and any medium and any style is acceptable. Naturally, the photographer’s name and the link to the reference photo must also be included in the entry. A panel of judges chooses the winner, but entries are voted on by members at the beginning of the next month to determine a people’s choice award as well.
One of the more unique contests involves listening to a piece of music and painting or drawing to the music. Musical clips come from a number of genres and range in length from a few minutes to half an hour or more. This challenge is less of a competition and more of a means of inspiring artists to create intuitively.
Another feature for artists is a free drawing grid. Rather than simply offer a preset drawing grid, however, the folks at Paint My Photo have designed a grid that can be customized to whatever the artist needs. Set up the grid once and it remembers your settings. Once the grid is set up on a reference photo, artists have a link to the gridded photo, as well as to the original photo.
Other resources include a free drawing grid that each member can customize to their own needs, and then save to use later which any reference photo on the site. There’s also a collection of helpful videos, podcasts, a monthly newsletter, and a forum. Nearly a dozen groups are available to artists and photographers.
If you’re looking for new inspiration or just want to enjoy some great photography and the art created from it, give PaintMyPhoto a look. At the very least, you’ll see some great images. . . and who knows? You may just find your next great work of art there.