Two People in Venice, Oil on Canvas; © Jennifer Pohl
I enjoy working from life, from dreams and from memory, or simply letting the paint lead me, but every now and then a camera can be a very useful tool (and especially in bad weather) to help record fleeting light and candid moments.
But the world is a changing place. Photographers are being sued for images published in magazines, perhaps because a fuzzy figure sitting on the steps in the background of the main shot got greedy. I know of one brilliant photographer who has given up taking pictures of people he doesn’t know. I understand that individuals have a right to privacy and to protect themselves from exploitation, but I have to wonder how much great art is being lost because of an increasingly sue-happy world. Since paintings are not as literal as photographs, painters may have a little more freedom, but today artists often question their first instincts in new and not always positive ways.
It’s true that there are times when being a five-foot-four and unintimidating female in a small town has undoubtedly allowed me to get away with more than my male counterparts. Indeed, I find myself approached by so many curious people while trying to concentrate at the French easel, or wandering around with a camera, that a friend joked that I should start mumbling to myself so people would think I was crazy and leave me alone.
Most people are generally flattered when I ask to record their image or paint them, but sometimes reactions are far more interesting. I remember stopping on a bike ride to watch some workmen refinishing a garage floor under the light of a single bulb. It was a painting waiting to happen, or so I thought. Before I had a chance to say anything, one of the men got up and ever-so-slowly pulled down the door so as to not scare the crazy lady with a camera.
In any case the couple I had spotted eating in Venice Pizzeria saw me and smiled. I signalled to them that I would like to take a picture, and talked to them to briefly explain what I was doing afterwards. Perhaps carrying around D*I*Y Planner photo release forms might be helpful, but I have to wonder if asking for a signature would put more people on edge these days. Two People in Venice has appeared in commercial, artist-run and public galleries, and so far this couple has been nice enough not to sue me.