Artist Profile – Joanne Domka

Joanne Domka is an artist who was born and raised in Detroit. Growing up in this city impacted her work, as this city is known for its motoring, Domka often includes the presence of cars, bikes and other motoring vehicles within her own work. After graduating university with a degree in Fine Arts. It was during her time in university that she discovered her love for hand colouring photographic prints, and additionally uncovered a passion for historical architecture and old buildings. “I started right away photographing a theme of old buildings,” she recalls. Her love of historical architecture and art deco style is very much alive today, as many of her images feature beautiful old neon signs and buildings.” (Eodice, L.1999) After this time she became a freelance photographer and was employed as a Photo Archivist at the General Motors Media Archives, working in research and preservation with the historic archive of over 5 million images. However she is most well known for her  hand coloured photo illustrations that later featured on covers of magazines.

Her methodology for producing her prints includes firstly, photographing her subject in black and white. She will take the same picture on two different cameras. One on black and white film, and one on colour film. Allowing her a coloured image to be uses as a reference. But in doing so she often changes the colours to emphasise it or to reference a time period. Then develops these prints and uses a high quality matte surface print on finer-based paper. Domka’s prints are 20×24 in size. She says, “With a larger print, I can really dig into the details,”Then she colours on top of her images using oil paints or art pencils (such as Prismacolor), although she said that she predominantly uses pencils as they give greater control. She believes that by using archival materials and good suppliers, you will get much better results. When finished, she sets her images using an artist spray fixative. This process, although this is time consuming, and requires a lot of patience, it provides Domka with the best results. She may even take several attempts before getting her final print correct but this enables her to produce a very unique final image.

Joanne Domka

Joanne Domka

Joanne Domka 2

Joanne Domka

Her handmade process almost makes her photographs look like paintings and this is what makes her images stronger and more eye catching. These images, especially that of the motor vehicles are created in a photo realism style which means that she reproduces and represents the scene to the viewer in a way that is realistic, but at the same time, changing it to make the viewer believe that it is an exact interpretation, when actually it is exaggerated and emphasised and sometimes the colour is changed completely. I think that this is very clever and work very well within Domka’s work.

The strong part of Domka’s work I believe to be the way that she adds colour so vividly that it almost makes the viewer need to readjust their eyes to take it in properly. This result is created more effectively by the way that she does her photography on sunny days where there are more dramatic shadows (shown in her image above of the neon sign) As this allows Domka to be more creative when applying colour as the different tones and gradients can show through the colour. Additionally, her use of framing is extremely important and evident in her work. She purposefully doesn’t show the entire scene but instead crops the image so that the subject completely fills the frame, immersing the viewer into the scene and making them deconstruct the scene through the part of the subject that has been shown to them.

From researching the work of Joanne Domka, there are many elements that I would like to take and apply to my own practice to adding colour to photographs. Firstly, I like the way that her images are made to look like paintings, rather than photographs as I think that this gives them an artistic value that is compelling. Secondly, I want to make sure that when taking my black and white images I make sure that I include use of shadows to allow for the application of colour to be more successful. Additionally, I will make sure that when choosing my suppliers for my equipment (pens and paint) to use that the best results will be achieved. Finally, I wish to take on Domka’s advice that said, “Don’t just stay within the parameters that are most widely used for coloring prints.” So I will experiment with what ways work the best for me and enable me to create a powerful final image that I can have pride in.

  • AutomotiveArtists (no date) Joanne Domka. Available at: http://www.automotiveartists.com/joanne-domka/ (Accessed: 26 March 2015)
  • Eodice, L. (1999) From black-and-white to ultra color: Joanne Domka’s hand-colored prints are true works of art, Petersen’s Photographic, Volume 27, Issue 11, Page 28
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