Artists know that when painting or drawing, you pretty much always have to have some reference material: few people can just paint from their imagination. Photographs are commonly used to solve this problem.
But what if you're sticking too closely to your sources, and your paintings begin to have a photographic, flat look? To fix that requires studying how to adapt photographs into paintings and drawings.
Take the case of my recent painting, Approaching Storm. (Note that I may actually make a larger version of this painting, in which case the following would be more of a study.) I took the photograph you see below from the passenger window of a car as a storm built up over Summerfield.
This is not such a bad photograph, and works very well as a reference. But what if I had copied it exactly?Then there would be a fence in front of my trees, power lines and the top of the window in the upper left, and some weird stuff going on with the trees at the distant far left. Clearly, some changes, albeit not major ones, had to take place, leading me to the following painting:
Better. I now have a painting that actually looks like a painting, and does what I want it to do. I may paint this in a bigger size, maybe as a demonstration for my watercolor class next month…stay tuned, and watch out for a continuation of this subject.