How to Create a Great Painting From an Imperfect Photo Reference

How to use a photo reference > Plein air painter Shelby Keefe shows us how she took a lackluster photo and turned it into a painting with great design and color.

BONUS: Keep reading to find out how you can win a set of artist oil paints from Grackle Studio!

How to Create a Great Painting From an Imperfect Photo Reference

By Shelby Keefe
(“Painting from Photographs”)

This is a photo I took when in Cuba with Eric Rhoads and 99 other people for the Paint Cuba trip back in 2016. I thought I was photographing this guy without his knowledge, so the shot was taken very quickly and not an ideal composition, but he caught me and smiled in the process of “busting me”!

Photo reference of a man playing an upright bass outdoors
Photo reference

In his quick look toward the camera, I felt I caught the joy and lighthearted quality that so many Cuban people exemplified. So, even with this challenging composition, I really wanted to try to capture his nature and his spirit in a painting.

First, I needed to downplay and move that architectural finial on the stone wall. It was too similar in strength and it divided the canvas in too equal a way. So I made the “ball” smaller and shorter, and the wall longer, to create a better division of space. I could’ve taken out that ball altogether, but felt it had such a Cuban flavor and spoke to the crumbling ornate structures we saw all over the place.

Second, I eliminated a lot of detail and softened the background into general shapes of color with only suggestions of texture. I also exaggerated any shapes and color that helped create impact, such as the light that hits the top of the wall and the color of the ground.

Third, I pushed back the distance in the far left upper corner by lightening the value of the subjects, creating atmosphere and space.

The finished painting still breaks some compositional rules, having all the meaningful information way over on the left, and cutting off at the bottom the curved step that leads your eye around. But hopefully this man grabs your attention by his knowing smile and you can forgive the awkward nature of this non-standard composition.

Painting from a photo reference - Shelby Keefe, "Solista del Sol," oil
Shelby Keefe, “Solista del Sol,” oil

Know that your life will be easier if you start with a good photograph to begin with!

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To learn more about how to successfully paint from imperfect photo references, check out Shelby Keefe’s video Painting From Photographs:

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  1. I love how you transformed the photo into a beautiful painting! I love photo references because I have very limited time to plein air paint during certain seasons here in the northeast; and even when I have the opportunity to paint en plein air, I still take a photo reference so I can tweak it when I get it home to work on it.

  2. For me, photo references work hand in hand with plein air. If I’ve got a photo for the drawing and a plein air study for the color, I can do a successful studio painting much more easily.

  3. I paint mostly still lifes and I like to work from life but I find that taking photos works really well when working with items that change quickly, like flowers! Photos also help me see some of the detail up close.

  4. Love using photo references. I saw the musician painting in Shelbe’s Door Co workshop. The painting is wonderful and captures the moment without a doubt. I teach for a rec program and we must use photos or a live set up, so I am ever so grateful to deliver the very useful painting tips.

  5. Photos are a critical tool, particularly in complex and fleeting subjects, such as sunsets, but the essence of plein air painting is experiential. Excessive reference to photos, to the extent of “copying” can become static and ultimately somewhat lifeless.

  6. I often use photo references that are far less than perfect! Just remember the focal point that makes you love the scene and the important supporting elements and rearrange them to make a great composition! So long as the light and shadow remain “true” you are good to go!!

  7. Although I love my plein air time, and consider it essential to absorbing the feeling, atmosphere, mood, smells, sounds, and light of a place…my best painting happens back in the calm of the studio. Photo references help me to simplify and strengthen my composition, and “see” more clearly what it was that inspired me to paint in the first place. Plus, I’ve started painting large again…so much better to do smaller studies outdoors, then bring them back to the studio along with photos to reference for those 30 x 40+ canvases!

  8. I once heard someone say during a demonstration: “A good photo is already a done deal.” I have to agree. You have a lot of choices, decisions, and improvements to make in a painting from a bad photo (or better yet, several photos), but there’s not much more you can say in a painting from a really good photograph.

  9. What a fun and striking painting. You did a fine job capturing the essence of the place and man. Thank you for sharing both the reference photo and the finished painting along with your story, thoughts and choices.

    My feeling about using reference photos is that sometimes a photo is the only way to capture a scene or moment so it can be recreated later with paint. I’ve stepped into the middle of streets during small gaps in traffic to capture the angle I wanted. I’ve had Caribbean cab drivers pause on curves and at the tops of hills on scary-narrow roads because they wanted to share a scene of their beautiful and beloved island, and in those brief stops, I’ve taken photos through the cab’s open windows, grateful for the driver’s joy in sharing. Sometimes a scene changes so quickly that only a photo can pause and preserve a key moment.

    With no way to set up for the “perfect angle” or park for the perfect view or snare a fleeting moment, the only safe and wise choice is to take a photo to use later. It’s true that photos flatten scenes and often distort and flatten colors, and they rarely do justice what we see before us. Still, I would rather have that source and make choices about how to create something beautiful from it than to be purist and miss the chance altogether.

  10. in the era of plein air painting popularity, it is suggested that painting from a photograph leaves the artist with inaccurate information about the subject … the camera doesn’t capture color acurately, the light and depth of color in shadows is lost, etc. However, beginners and those on their way to becoming ‘practiced’ and ‘experienced’ can benefit from painting from a photo they are inspired by. Time spent painting anything is a learning experience! Every stroke, an opportunity to improve and have some of those ah-ha moments. Experienced painters, like Shelby have enough knowledge to ‘know’ what and how to change the photo to become a great painting. Painting, like writing a great novel, is all about editing! That’s what Shelby did here. Thanks for reminding us photos are not necessarily always taboo!

  11. I work, with photo references, as I am losing my eyesight and no longer drive. So using photos is a way for me to paint as if I am still able to travel and paint what is before me. It opens my imagination and lets me see new places once again.

  12. The more plein air painting I do, the more I want to do it! I just love it.
    That said, I do not, will not, absolutely won’t, do plein air winter. (the kind with snow!) I am a summer person, and let’s keep it that way.
    So for me, photo references are a seasonal tool.
    And then there is that figurative factor – I also love to paint people in street scenes where it’s often a matter of getting the scene, and hopefully some of the gesture en plein air, but having the figures in photoS (never take just one!) for back up.
    I like the phrase, ‘use all your tools’!!

  13. I usually redraw the photo with a good mix of darks and lights highlighting the focal point which I try to locate in the golden spot. I even try to do this when translating a plein air sketch as I feel it’s important to engage the viewer to explore the scene and really feel that they are experiencing the moment in time.

  14. I always use a photo reference to help me capture a particular moment. It allows me to slow down and really read a scene.

  15. Travel often means walking quickly along an alley, exploring areas from on high, grabbing a cuppa at an outdoor stand. It rarely means standing still in a place I’ve never been before. It’s either take a photo or have nothing but a vague memory. Sometimes a photo is better than nothing.

  16. I do enjoy my time in plein aire but I also use reference photos in my studio.

    I take a lot of photos and I find a lot of things I do want to paint. Very often I do not have time to stop and paint it when that spark catches my eye. The use of a reference photograph brings back what I saw along with the way the composition of the scene was. Memories are very important when you are using a reference photo. Using only a cell phone means that the colors, lights and shadows will be the wrong color. Photo reminds you of what you actually saw and what do you to the scene.

    It allows me the time I need to experiment with different sketches to see what I really want to paint. I really love details so the reference photo will allow me to return to my painting at a later time.

    It will also allow you to combine several reference photos to a scene that’s in your minds eye. You take a piece from this one, the background from that one, foreground from the other one, mix them up anyway you want.

    It even allows you to capture action shots. Birds flying, fox running, deer jumping, water splashing from the falling stone.

    Reference photos allow you to dream and in your daydreaming, you’ll create new scenes to paint. What if ….?

  17. Just starting plein aire painting, I am learning how different the colors are from my reference photos! I have Shelby’s DVD, and that was extremely helpful in editing the photo references to be better compositions, and in some cases color, definitely value. But since I work slow, I do have to snap a few to allow me to finish in my studio! Would love to try the Grackle oils!

  18. When I moved to Colorado in 2020, I was pleasantly stunned at the grandeur of creation where I now live, and I started taking a lot of photos. From those photos I decided to take up doing fine art painting again after several years of not having time to do so. After having listened to several artists about photos as references for paintings, I discovered several things as being true as a result of listening to them and from my experience. The foremost fact to keep in mind is that nature rarely presents a “perfect” composition to us, and so a photo of whatever scene will likely show things that would be best removed in the painting of its scene. I have gained a greater respect for professional photographers who labor to find artistic compositions in nature, urban scenes and social settings. Another fact about using photos is that most cameras, even good cameras, don’t yield the same effects on paper that our naked eyes saw when we were enamored by the scene en plein air. I don’t think less of a photographer’s skill for enhancing a photo to increase its impact on the viewer; often doing so captures the scene closer to its natural original. As painters, we shouldn’t hesitate to “enhance” or make changes from the reference photo in order to make an impression on the viewer. Like thumbnail drawing and painting sketches as preparation for a painting, photographs are likewise another good resource for preparing to do a painting.

  19. Photos save the day…or at least the painting. Often, there is not enough time to finish a piece, so the photo is invaluable for working on it later. And, when the weather just will not cooperate: Rain, heat cold, wind…they all happen, causing misery and messes. Completing a painting in the comfort of a controlled environment, with the help of a photograph, is just way more fun.

  20. I think using a photo reference is very valuable because one cannot always paint on site, or complete it on site. I loved this article about how Shelby adjusted and manipulated her photo to make such a great memory. The man’s personality comes through so beautifully. I wonder if that would have been captured _without_ the photo? Certainly the components would have been there, but not the spontaneity of that smile. Nothing more needs to be said, Shelby’s painting, and the memory, say it all.

  21. First of all, a really nice painting and thank you for the tips!
    I think photo references are a great tool, in combination with painting from life you can get limitless in the ideas that you would like to convey, as the model can’t hold any pose, and the slippery nature of light when painting plein air does not allow for many tweaks of the brush after the set amount of time that you have with certain conditions. At the end of the day we are artists and not copy machines! Inventions from what we have in nature is the key to the game, and if cameras help so be it. 🙂

  22. I think photo references are incredibly useful when starting a new painting-both for the visual reminders of light and color but also for the way it reminds you of that moment. They pull you back into the memory and experience which you so beautifully captured in the painting above. I often start with a reference to get a feel for the landscape or lighting, but allow my creativity and paint itself to guide me in how I capture the image. It can be satisfying to “copy” the image to the tee-but I feel the rewarding point for me comes when I start imagining the whole landscape to fill in the details. Lovely work !

  23. Thank you for sharing the way you analyzed your photo to get to a beautiful painting. Photographs are a great stepping stone for the painter who can use it to enhance and transcend what he has captured with his camera.

  24. I paint a lot at the shore and in the dunes of NW Michigan, and since I like to paint large in the studio, photos are helpful reference for the composition layout. But I also paint en plein air regularly. Painting on location has taught me so much more about the colors and atmosphere of the scene than a photo ever could. These painting studies and the experience of having been there, along with photo reference, provide all I need to execute a studio piece.

  25. I paint mostly from photographs, and I love to study articles like this one to help me see how to improve the scene. They seem to be the same techniques used by experienced plein air artists when doing a complete painting directly en plein air.

    Regardless of the subject, I paint slowly so my approach to painting outdoors is to take photographs of the scene and mix up color notes of colors that I know the camera won’t capture properly. I’ll do a rough sketch of the scene and place important colors on the sketch as color notes. Then I’ll either complete the sketch in my studio or I’ll do a full-scale studio painting.

    The fact that Shelby Keefe used a less-than-perfect photo to produce a strong painting is very encouraging to me! Even though I try to take well-composed and exposed photos, a lot of them end up as “snapshots”. Now I can go back to see if some of my “rejects” can be made into good paintings!

    Thanks, Shelby!

  26. I love Shelby’s painting. Being slightly obsessed with painting Colorado landscapes, I find a painting like hers very inspirational. I like the way she took the information from the photo and improved upon it.

  27. For me, plein air painting fills my heart and mind with the experience of being on location. And this is the feeling that spills over to my paper. I try to remember to take pictures right away as I set up to paint to capture what is inspiring me. The photos can be valuable if I run out of time painting. Also, even if I think I’m finished on-site, in reality I often get home and continue touching the painting here and there! So the photos can be valuable in these ways.

  28. I use reference photos as jumping off point. I take most of my photos from a moving car (on trips with my husband)or on a walk down a country road so there is no place to set up an easel.

  29. Shelby is a genius when it comes to painting using photo references. I have seen her in a live demo doing this. I often use photo references , but have to remind myself not to paint so tightly.

  30. Photos give us tons of visual information. As an artist, we have the freedom to gather inspiration and utilize the photo to our advantage. I mostly use photos that I have taken and it brings to mind the reason I took the photo in the first place. Likely there was something about the scene that captured my attention when I took the photo. So when I paint the scene, I want to bring out my favorite parts of the scene; whether it’s a feeling or atmosphere, gesture or lighting, I love the challenge of creatively manipulating the scene to tell a story with a painting.

  31. Painting plein air is such a different experience than painting with photos, and yet photos are indispensable for capturing the scenes I don’t have time to paint but sure would like to. It also gives me something to work on when winter weather keeps me indoors more.

  32. I believe using photos can help with your painting , as a reference to when you are finishing on a plein air painting when you aren’t able to complete it outdoors

  33. It is fantastic how the word reference is truly a REFERENCE and not a mimic or copy, is amazing to see the skills to transform shapes and make then work with the light without seeing them. Is amazing how the personality of the main character is shown. The painting is so much more vibrant. It is great to see how you play with reality, interpretation, composition, and the essence or the goal to show what you want remains.

  34. Photos are great tools. When you want to revisit a location or action where our minds do not grab every detail we might need latter on to create a work of art.
    It is also fun to see the difference between the photo and an artists interpretation of the scene. Using a photo as a teaching tool will show a student an example Of what to change or leave out. It helps them learn how to focus in on the subject and create art not just a copy of a photograph.
    Everyone can learn from other artists comments as to their decision making and overall approach. I applaud Plein air magazine for bring us such articles.

  35. Lovely informative, don’t necessarily paint what you see and entertaining article Shelby! Great advice. And great painting. Go for it break the rules! For me painting from photo references only works if I haven’t started the painting en plein air because I always find myself matching the colors perceived in the photo and ruining the color harmony set in plein air.

  36. Re: Working from photos … A useful tip i recently learned about was using different colored filtered lights to change the shadow colors & composition of a still life. Thank you Dianna Shyne, artist & instructor.

  37. My personal preference, if I can’t paint Plein air, is a poor photo. A poor photo is enough to remind me of the experience, and allow me the freedom to use my imagination to enhance what I have seen. I am also a proponent of the cut, rearrange and paste school of thought as many times the elements that have excited me in being in that moment in time do not translate in one photo.
    Shelby has done a wonderful painting, her use of light and shadow direct our attention to the star of the show allowing the lines of the architecture and roadway to assume their rightful supporting roles.

  38. It’s refreshing to know that as artist we can break the rules to a degree and produce beautiful work. I appreciate how you sacrificed accurate composition for the flavor of the moment that you were able to capture. It really keeps the painting more spontaneous and original. Love it.

  39. With the advent of capable phone cameras, I’m convinced many artists use photos for some part of the painting process. So to me the next questions are “How to use photos?”and “When in your process to employ them?” Shelby’s explanation and excellent results are a great foundation.

    First is “When?” During the compositional/design phase makes sense. Editing the photo by cropping, changing orientation or format is easily done digitally. Extremely skilled plein air painters I believe do this using mind snapshots or notan/value sketches and skip the actual photo until completing a study. Importing a photo into an APP like Notanizer is a digital way to test your composition, and can be a useful tool to compare your concept with end results.

    How? Photos can often mislead atmospheric perspective or local color if used as literal references. As Shelby explained, she used the photo as a base from which to create and change to what she ultimately painted. Her representation certainly improved the scene, and the thought process for that while painting puts the artist, not the photo in control. This seems key to creating mood, atmosphere and viewer appeal. Besides, it’s always more fun to create a work of art than to copy thousands of pixels, each with little meaning compared to varied brushstrokes, color harmony and emotion.

  40. I love using reference photos. They allow TIME to complete a painting, especially if you have to come and go as you flow through your daily life. The painter has the ability to study the shadows, the composition, the design, the values longer. Memory of the photo is an asset as to how the feeling was at that moment, the smell, the sites all around. And, the painter can choose to “go big!” with a canvas in their studio. This is possible in plein air, but not to most of us painters.
    Using photos all the time, I don’t believe is good. We need the challenge of time restraint, and thinking quickly about values, shadows, and colors.
    Personally, I have only been plein air painting for a few years now, with painting from photos for a long time. There is nothing like that feeling of being outside with nature! But it’s wonderful to be able to come back to that scene a day later in your studio with a photo in hand.

  41. I began plein-air painting 40 years ago with my brother who, after attending Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida, came home and told me what his instructors had taught him during their plein-air sessions. And so began my love of painting outdoors. Over the years I would still repeatedly find myself having to use photo references whether for commissions or other personal work. However, years ago, life dealt me some curves regarding my health. I was diagnosed with cancer – not once, but twice. The first time was only stage-2 and therefore life went back to normal for many years after undergoing radiation treatments (even plein-air). But, about 12 years ago I was diagnosed with stage-4 cancer and was given almost no chance of survival and underwent aggressive chemotherapy. Fortunately for me, God had other plans (my beliefs) as I miraculously survived. The downside was the myriad of other health problems that resulted, such as massive congestive heart failure, etc. The whole point of all this is that it has forced me to rely of photographs much more. Being the outdoors person that I am, even despite my issues, I will still plein-air paint when the weather is suitable. Although I am very aware of the limitations of a camera, but, for someone like me, photos are very much a part of my way of being there!

  42. Living in Maine, the weather and light can change almost in an instant. Plein air painting is certainly a joy but not always a practical reality. I believe a beautiful landscape caught with a creative eye, still brings the artist’s sensibility to the painting even though made from the image. To practice the freedom of expression and experimentation, a photo is a great tool … especially when a sleepless night leaves the creator restless and eager to put brush to canvas. A photo reference is just another tool to aid creativity.

  43. I usually use my iPhone for photo references, and take one photo for the lights and one for the shadows. When you’re taking the shot, click on a dark area and it will give the darks more of a value range, while the lights will be more blown out. If you click on a light area you’ll get the reverse: more detail and larger value range in the lights but the darks will be compressed. By taking one photo for the darks and one for the lights I can combine the two into one painting.

  44. I think photos can be useful to some degree. Painting from life will give us the most accurate information. Since our eyes and senses record much more, and most importantly the reason WHY we wanted to paint the scene. If we make notes and sketches to capture the essence of feeling and what drew us to the scene we will have a more dynamic painting. Working form reality also affords us the opportunity to see light and shadow correctly as well as temperature and nuances of reflected light. Photo’s can never catch all that feel and paintings are all about what moves us. 🙂

  45. Interesting that I have been struggling with this same question this week. I have come to the conclusion that photo references are great when the artist themselves have taken the photo and also has observed and analyzed the colors of nature. I have been working on a painting where the photo came out too orange and too dark. I had to go reevaluate the scene to determine the true colors. This does not mean I need to recreate the exact colors but it does help in getting values, colors and temperatures correct.

  46. i use photographs as references in my work frequently combining several in one piece. Using photographs allows for resizing of certain elements, eliminating others, changing colors, and altering the placement of elements.

    They are a tool but do not substitute for taking the time to draw the images.

  47. i am a caregiver! My husband and I have been married 57 years and up until a few years ago, I enjoyed the freedom of spending long days painting plein air with friends. I miss that so very much. Since we are “always together” (for which I am so very thankful) except for when he goes for dialysis treatment, the time I do have to go out is very limited. As often as I can, on his days off, we go out together and search for those special places that I would like to paint. On occasion, I DO paint while he enjoys the fresh air and reads or watches me paint. Most often I must spend time indoors working from photographs or still life submects. The photos I have often take me back to times and places spent with friends or family and wonderful memories. I am not writing this to focus on how life has changed but to encourage anyone who might have come to a time in life that presents challenging changes to get out those photos and keep painting. Use the skills you already have learned and put into practice and NEVER STOP LEARNING! Don’t let life’s changes steal your joy! Teach others what you have learned and experienced. Bring joy into the life of someone else.

  48. I backpack into some lovely places where it’s difficult to carry a lot of painting equipment so I rely a lot on reference photos. They give me the inspiration I need to put my memories into paint.

  49. Ideally, I like to capture the colors and feel in a plein air study, and take several photos to bring back to the studio to work on a larger piece. After a while, you get to understand how the colors and values in a photo are not totally in step with real life and you can adjust.

  50. Reference photos (after cropping) are my key to a successful painting. That’s not to say I do not add or subtract to the finished painting to create a more interesting composition. The reference photo allows me to recall the shadows and light at the moment that caught my interest. I may even to a couple of paintings from a single photo. This part was interesting play of shadows or the twinkle of the light source on a small pool. The photo is a memory of the moment. The next photo a minute later may be quite different.

  51. Photos… they never seem to capture the magic of a scene so they make great references as long as you keep the magic in your mind then have the skills to put it to canvas or paper. The joy in being an artist is to express the artistic viewpoint, not to recreate a photo.

  52. I often use my I-phone while plein air painting to help me compose. I fond this practice helps me “settle down” and assess the scene without becoming overwhelmed.

    I take a lot of photos of fleeting scenes such as dusk or dawn and a photo reference helps me recall what was there moments ago.

    And lastly, as a female who likes to paint industrial scenes in sketchy neighborhoods a photo reference might even help keep me out if harm’s way when lacking a companion.

  53. Thank you for so generously sharing your gifts with us. This is truly art not copy art and shows us how you see it! Very UNLIKE sitting through the hours long dreaded explanation of some family members crappy vacation photos! lol, now we have some tools to help us NOT put our loved ones through viewing our crappy “copy” paintings! Beautiful work Shelby…i will be digging through those old crappy photos of mine with freshly inspired eyes! Yay

  54. I always have my Nikon Coolpix camera, a sketch pad and Pitt pens in different widths. Sometimes I will use the camera on my phone, if I happen not to have the other materials. But I seldom paint from these. They are usually for some fleeting cloud formations or a crowded scene. If I have time, I will draw and sketch the scene and later add a watercolor wash for developing into a painting. But I also take lots of photos. The reason for the photos is usually placement of objects, rather than making an exact copy. I also don’t paint from one photo, but study many of them and combine bits of one with bits of another. I have often taken a series of photos, and have them lined up on my computer screen like a panorama, and then have done a screenshot to remember what went where. I often have the photo on an iPad and the sketch or study next to it. From the reference material, I will do a thumbnail sketch if I want to alter anything from my study. If there isn’t a study, then it is all the more imperative to have a thumbnail/value sketch by my painting. After I start to paint, I often set aside the photo, and let the internal working of the painting guide me. The colors etc will develop when I start to paint. I have also been using John MacDonald’s color swatch method on Photoshop from the photo to match and mix my paint. This has to be done keeping in mind not to go too dark with a black, but to mix darks from other colors to match the correct value. I have also found that if I print out a greyscale copy of the photo, I can see if there are glaring faults in value.

  55. I first learned how to paint the landscape plein air. This helped me to understand how to use photo references but not copy them. Now I will often work in the studio using a photo I took myself (never a photo from a place that I have never been to). The knowledge I use from my plein air training is always part of my approach. Start with big brushes, work basic shapes starting with the dark shadows and no details in the beginning. Starting this way keeps my studio paintings from looking tight or like a copy of a photo. The photo is just the starting inspiration. My feeling of the place is what I try to capture even when I am painting from a photo.

  56. I use a photo reference to set a moment in time, even when painting en plein air, or to help me draw thumbnails from, or when I don’t have my painting stuff with me or time to paint.

  57. Painting plein air with fresh breeze, changing light, bird song, friends painting nearby absolutely pushed my observational skills and artistic ability up a few notches. Photographs as reference do not at all compare to painting onsite but in Canada, they fill a gap in the crisp cold of winter! If time does not allow a sketch on site, I take photos with some zoomed up to the magnification of what I am seeing in the distance and also of the broader expanse of the scene. With these in hand, I can later draw up a more correct perspective of the scene as I remember it rather than copying the camera distortion of the distance. Not perfect but it helps…

  58. Eric,

    As you well know we are in another Texas drought this summer. Its been over 100 degrees every day since the beginning of June. Too hot and miserable to be outside painting. Thats why I like to use reference photos. I have thousands of them. Using photos allows me to revisit a scene, think through what I was seeing and feeling at the time.

  59. I paint mostly from photographs. I rarely plein air paint for a variety of reasons, one being that landscapes are my weakest skill. Plus, it takes a lot of forethought and preparation, so color me lazy. For my portraits I much prefer my own photographs as snapshots so often bleed out features, colors, skin tones and shadows. It’s sometimes difficult not to “copy” but only refer and enhance. The above photo reference and resulting fantastic painting is a classic example of enhancement. It breathes.

  60. I enjoyed the tips on this article, because I often use reference photos. The thing that grabbed my imagination and excited me, still feels fresh when I look at the pictures I’ve taken. Trying to capture that feeling is as much a challenge and a joy, as getting the details of the image down in paint.


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