Painting on photographs: Erika Meershoek and Dennis Moet collaborate

December 18th, 2006

We have had much discussion about painting from photographs (e.g. here, here and here). What about painting on photographs? Artist Erika Meershoek and photographer Dennis Moet of Haarlem have teamed up to do just this. Their work is a powerful synthesis of the two media, which, beyond its visual impact, turns the photography versus painting discussion on its head.

Everyone knows about Photoshop and its power to manipulate images. What painters realize, however, is that the tools in Photoshop are impoverished compared to what an artist can do with real paint. Why digitally manipulate a photograph, when you can paint on it directly?

The answer is that when painting directly on a photograph, you arrive at something which is neither a photograph nor a painting, but a conceptual and physical blend of the two. A traditional photographer or painter might not feel comfortable with this new form. But looking at the great results (and presumably fun) that Erika and Dennis are getting, I find myself asking, why don’t I do this also?

Of course, beyond getting over the intellectual barriers of thinking of photography and painting as separate art forms, there is the issue of how to do it well. Erika and Dennis each bring special talents to the work. It would be a mistake to assume that one could casually achieve such powerful results.

Painting on photographs has a long history and is enjoying popularity now as well. Erika and Dennis would never claim to have invented this technique. Their contribution is in pushing it to a new level.

What do you say, photographers and painters? Should we collaborate, or stick with our traditional media?

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13 Responses to “Painting on photographs: Erika Meershoek and Dennis Moet collaborate”

  1. John Joannides Says:

    Some of those images are interesting, particularly the first. It’s a direction that could offer a great deal of enjoyment and seems, frankly, somehow obvious now that I’ve seen it.

  2. Karl Zipser Says:


    These images fail to capture the power of the original artworks. The originals are large (I think wider than 50 cm). From a distance, the painting and photography fuse together seamlessly. Close up, it is possible to see what is paint and what is photograph, but not as easy as you might guess. Sometimes I found myself wondering if part of the photo was painted or not. The physical quality of the paint, where it is evident, adds a richness to the work that is pleasing to my eyes.

  3. Angela Ferreira Says:

    It makes visually interesting images with an ambiguous quality!
    You couldn’t use oils though it would decayed the photograph..

  4. Karl Zipser Says:

    Interesting point, Angela. I believe that Erika and Dennis use special materials. Erika and Dennis, could you comment?

  5. Steve Says:

    The technique has interesting possibilities. Of course, well over a century ago, hand painting of photographs was used to provide color for a predominantly black and white medium. And the fine art bromoil technique can produce gorgeous results, usually in a more classical style. I think collaboration could be a blast, but with these artists, I happen to like their “straight” paintings and photos better.

    Even relatively modest printers (like mine) these days can easily use archival pigment inks on canvas or thick board (1.5 mm), so longevity should not be a problem.

  6. Karl Ziper Says:


    It is difficult for me to compare across art media. Do I like Mozart better than Van Gogh? Looking at Erika and Dennis’ independent work, I find it difficult to judge as compared to their collaborative work. I would not say that I like the collaborative work more or less than the independent work. What I can say is that the collaborative work excites me. Even though, as we all know, painting on photos is nothing new, something about what Erika and Dennis have done makes it new and exciting to me.

    Erika, Dennis,

    What is it like collaborating on work like this? Is it as fun as I assume, or does it cause dissension can conflict? If the latter, is conflict a useful part of the creative process?

  7. June Says:

    Seems like there are two different ideas here — one involves the technique, which I like a lot, and which I have used in textiles in very very modest ways. The pushing of the technique into specific imagery and styles that I see in the examples is wonderful.

    The other idea is that of collaboration, which brings up, as Karl points out, wholly different questions — questions of insight and individuality. I would like to hear more about these.

  8. Leslie Holt Says:

    I like this work very much. Any way we could get titles and dimensions? Size matters, you know =)

    One of my profs in grad school gave a final project in his intro to painting class for undergrads in which he asked students to make a painting that expanded on a photogrph. What that meant was open – for some students it meant painting on the photo, for some it meant using the photo as a source and adding to the imagery, and for others it meant incorporating the photo in a collage way. The only limitation was that it could not simply be a painting from a photograph. There were pretty interesting results from this project. I would love to hear more about the specific materials needed for this – paint, photo paper, etc.

    As I have said before in the Bartman post, it only makes sense to use photogrpahy if your work would benefit from it. THe distinctions between the media are pretty meaningless to me at this point. As a painter I used to get very stuck on pure painting, and I still prefer it. But I also work in other media to open up new possibilities for both subject matter and mark making.

    I look at an artist like Gabriel Orozco
    and I see how much he gets from each exploration into different ideas and media. That is exciting to me.

  9. Erika Meershoek Says:

    Thank you for all the comments on our work! It’s not allway’s easy to collaborate in art……but working together with Dennis is the most powerfull learning-experiment ever to me. The thing is that when i start painting, Dennis is actualy finished with his part. I mean, we still look and talk and decide how i continue together, but Dennis is satisfide about his work by then, while i must still begin! That means for me i feel a lot pressure to make sure i don’t spoile his photo…………The other thing that sometimes not alway’s brings us to a happy end is that we don’t alway’s agree on the satisfaction of the result. I think, becouse the time i spent on painting bonds me with the work. Sometimes my feelings about the subject makes that i feel good about the work during the process and end up very happy. That means that for me, there’s more to enjoy then just the result( by emotion). While, for Dennis, a photograph has more to do with technique. When that’s perfect, the photo is perfect……..i think,………. but Dennis should answer that question himself……….I’ll ask him to respond! I come back to you later to explane more; for now thanks again! Best, Erika.

  10. Karl Zipser Says:


    I understand how the sequence of work — painting on the photo — means that you don’t work together at the same time on your collaborative work — on any given piece that is.

    But doesn’t your collaboration influence the type of photos that Dennis takes? If not, it is not really a collaboration at all, is it? It is you painting on his work. No less exciting to me, I look at the result. But a collaboration means an interaction in the work itself, over time at least.


    P.S., don’t forget to let Leslie know about the size issue.

  11. Erika Meershoek Says:

    Hi Karl,
    I don’t believe i made myself very clear…..isn’t easy in english!
    Ofcourse we work together from start till finish. But the thing is, when i come in with paint, Dennis has done the most difficult part already. We both decide what picture we make. The subject, area, theme, everything, we both agree. Dennis is making a differend type of photo when he know’s it is for GIDZ. I mean, we don’t choose from a collection, we make them with an idea in our head of what we want for result.So, Dennis has to be sure he makes something i can deal with, in technique and in style. But when i come in it feels, to me, like as if i can ruine everything, while Dennis is “done”. And ofcourse we communicate all the time about how to go on. But, you know, sometimes you can’t get on canvas what you have in mind……..even if you want to. Becouse; colour, technique, being relaxed, hasatation, concentration,light, paint to wet or to dry…..barking dog……..out of coffee!!!Everything can effect the result. But the different between paint and photography is that when the photo is shit, you make a new one, untill you’re sure it’s good enough to continue the process. But when you can’t get the painting right, you can’t change it for the better. Specialy when it’s on the board we work on. You can’t go on and on.
    I usually make a small example of what i’m thinking off to make with a photo. We discuss about that and make changes. Dennis as much as i do. And we keep doing that untill finish. For both of us it’s a totally different way of working and it’s great fun, but also,for me, a hudge learning process!!!!
    Leslie, i’ll give you the details as soon as possible!

  12. Erika Says:

    Hi Leslie,
    Here are the answeres to you’re size-questions!
    The 4 paintings above ( on top) are big, 1.10/1.40 m. They cost about € 1550,- each. The 2 below are smaller ( made in Alpujarra, Spain) .40/.60cm. They cost about € 600,- each.
    I don’t think i want to tell you more about the technique of “the making off”, becouse that’s part of the “secret of GIDZ”!!!!!!!
    Best, Erika.

  13. Paul Says:

    I realize I am very late into this discussion, but I thought i would leave my comment anyways. I think the idea is extremely exciting. I feel that in the first photo the way that the geometry and one point perspective play into the drawing makes me feel intrigued. I am an AP Art student in highschool and this is a real inspiration to me as an artist I have decided to use the same medium and technique in my art. Bravo.