Arts and Entertainment

Painting with photons

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Randy Tomaras, a professional photographer for decades, now says he’s a “painter.”


Yes, he says, his art is all produced by software, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t producing paintings.


Instead of watercolors or oils, he works in pixels.


“The only thing we have as artists to work with is the quality of light,” he said. “Painters, photographers — we work with the photons that are transmitted into the brain.”


He’s entranced by the possibilities, but says the software isn’t just “a magic button.”


“I probably have 10-12 hours each putting them together,” he said. “It requires technique.” Certainly the results are painterly, and impressive.


A photo of the Angel Lavender Farm following the harvest, for example. The palette is narrowed to a few splendid purples and greens, and the detail is obscured. The result is a piece that is somehow geometrically precise and in motion, abstract and representational.


Some traditional artists may not welcome the new technology, he said.


“When photography came out, that basically put 90 percent of the artists out of work. That wasn’t cool, but that’s the way it goes.”


“And,” he added, “there are a lot of artists who are embracing this themselves.”


Light from light

Tomaras is fascinated by the interaction between light and the brain, and is a student of the research.

“The neurology that they’ve come up with in the last five years is phenomenal,” he said. “It’s changing the whole concept of memory.”


Memory is a subject of particular interest to him. “We toss away 99 percent of what we see. So how do we create a photograph that people will remember, that they will react to?”


Memory, the research shows, is tied to something “unusual, unique and different.”


“That’s what I look at when I’m looking at something, composing a photo. I’m trying to find something that will make it memorable.”


The new software provides additional tools to accomplish that, he said.


He points to a painting of the lavender oil distillery at Martha Lane Lavender Farm. He’s reworked the original with brush strokes here, a sponge stroke there. In some areas he has dimmed the existing light, in others, brightened it.


He called the new tools just “amazing.” In conversations with software developers at Adobe, creators of the ubiquitous Photoshop package, he learned about the development of filters. Essentially they are mathematical formulas for producing certain effects, including reproducing the styles of the masters.


A dizzy image of the William Dick barn, he said, is “his first Picasso.”


Going for the big time

Tomaras has big plans for his paintings. Literally.


“I’m making 20 by 30s, (inches)” he said, “big pictures that can go into medical centers or decor for restaurants.”


He said he has some samples on his website, but they hardly begin to show what a full-size piece looks like.


“The file for this photo is 572 megabytes,” he said. “But on the Internet it’s been reduced to less than 1 meg.”


The image looks like a photograph, “until you blow it up.”


That’s when the astonishing detail shows up.


“They just pop,” he said.


For more on Tomaras’ paintings, see


Reach Mark Couhig at

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