The Trials of Hand Painting

I have been hand painting photographs for over 25 years. Right after college (that was awhile ago...) I saw a hand 'tinted' photograph at an art show that sparked my interest in applying color to my black and white silver prints. My photographs were taken with a 'pinhole camera of Santa Barbara' using Polaroid 55 film. Printed by hand in my darkroom these images are about 5ft. tall.

Starting out, I never really tinted photos, I have always had a pretty heavy hand, painting images with Marshall oils, and later adding other media with stitching.

Blanket, hand painted b&w silverprint, 2004

Private Collection

Parting From You Now, hand painted b&w silverprint with stitching, 2008

Collection of Trenam Law, Tampa

As it started becoming more difficult to get fiber based photo paper and Marshall oils, I made a shift, and started looking for other ways to produce images that could be painted. I gave liquid emulsion with oil paint a go, which I liked a lot but it was so unpredictable and not consistent. I finally settled on working with salt prints and van dykes. Since these images are on watercolor paper, my hand painting moved toward using watercolors and gouache.

I am very happy using the watercolor and gouache combo, but got the bug again a few days ago to experiment a little more with what options that are now out there. I have a specific project in mind and want to stretch my creative possibilities. Snooping around the darkroom I came across some liquid emulsion (might as well give that a try again), still not consistent. Plus the shiny surface makes it difficult to go back into the piece with other media. Not to mention, the smell from using oil paint was lingering throughout our house. When you haven't used it in awhile it is especially intense.

In the end.... it is back to working with the van dyke process and applying various media. If you are interested in trying hand painting photographs, I have added links to the supplies I use for the different processes-they are in 'red'. Just click on the highlighted links. Got questions? Drop me a line at rslarson(at)

Happy experimenting!