Carolee S. Clark
Newsletter April 2014

Using Google Street View for painting reference material
contemporary landscape painting by Carolee Clark
© Carolee Clark, "Wanderers Welcome,"
  30" x 30" x 1.5", acrylic
At the risk of shattering some illusions as to exactly how creative I am, I’m going to admit that some of my reference material comes from Google Street Views (GSV).

It wasn’t my idea.  I stumbled upon the concept of using GSV from Bill Guffey’s blog “The Virtual Paintout.”  Up until that point in early 2010 I had no idea of the wealth of imagery that google maps contains.

The idea of the blog “The Virtual Paintout” is that Guffey chooses a location somewhere in the world and artists are invited to submit an image of their painting or drawing using GSV of this location.  

The Google team blurs out anything that might evoke privacy outrage such as faces and license plates.  Luckily for my work, I don’t need details.  If I have the gesture of a person walking, the outline of a building next to another, or a few trees I’m off and running. 

Another thing to know is that Google allows artists to use these images as reference material for creating their art work without copyright infringement.
Reference for painting               "Stop & Smell the Roses" painting by Carolee Clark
This image was found in Slovenia done for a recent Virtual Paint out challenge.  It is often difficult to get candid photos of people as they seem to sense the camera.  GSV often goes by unnoticed, especially in larger urban areas.)   Final Painting "Stop & Smell the Roses", 10" x 10"
Reference for painting   "Bernhoffs Lane" painting by Carolee Clark
Andenes, Norway (simple street scene with good sunlit buildings)   Final Painting "Bernhoffs Lane", 10" x 10"
reference for painting   "Sales are Bright" painting by Carolee Clark
This image was taken from Thailand and gives you an idea how blurry the scene can be (I had zoomed in quite a lot).  I'm not even sure what they were selling, but I got enough from their gestures and situation to give me an idea on how to proceed.   Final Painting "Sales are Bright," 20" x 20" x 1.5"
reference for painting   "Fashion Fix" painting by Carolee Clark
Finally, this image was taken from a shop in Portland.  Google is expanding into commercial and public buildings.  The reference material is unending (even if their reach is spooky!)   Final Painting "Fashion Fix," 10" x 10"

Nuts and bolts:  Like any technology it keeps changing and thus I will add a caveat that these instructions may change.

  1.   Open a browser and go to Google Maps (
  2.   Choose a place to explore (eg. New York, NY)
  3.   To show you in the map below, I have highlighted  the lower right corner  which has + (zoom) and a Pegman (yellow).  Use the map you have in your browser.
  4.   Zoom in with the +
  5.   Take the Pegman with your mouse and move him over a blue area (streets) of the map.  You’ll notice that tiny images of what you might find show up as you move the man around above the streets.  Release the man onto the map. 
  6.   You can then use your mouse to click your way through the streets.   Hold the mouse down and move it to the left or right to turn.  Click further up the street to move forward.   You can use the zoom once you are in street view to go in for a closer look.
  7.   Also, try Bill Guffey's Virtual Paintout blog and check out the images and his instructions.

Google map