Why did the artist cross the road? So he wouldn't have to put that caution sign in his painting.
Some artists are so locked into painting from a photo they cannot deviate one tiny bit from what’s in the photo. They get in just the perfect spot to take their photo from. That yellow caution sign might just be what is really needed to bring interest to their painting though. A friend put a railroad crossing sign in her painting and I swear the light in the center of that crossing sign was blinking red. That tiny touch of pinkish red made that painting. Turns out there was no railroad sign in that landscape. The artist just felt that the summer landscape in her mind needed that touch of pinkish red. That's what an artist does, they take the ordinary and make it special.
Twenty years since I saw that painting and I remember it like I had just seen it yesterday. A good artist does that, they make you look and think about things. I tried to picture a train winding it's way through the country side and a car full of excited kids counting the passing train cars and telling Aunt Anita about all the different kinds of train cars they counted. Kathy Wilson Smith took me back to the trains and visits to my aunt and uncle for a moment as I stood in front of her watercolor.
How we artists use our photos is so important. Some cross the road to get the ideal shot of the landscape before us, others see that landscape with the yellow caution sign as a better way to stir peoples minds. The artist inside builds upon that scene and thinks about possibilities. They take to the studio the photos they took and dream about the paintings they may get from those photos. Maybe the caution sign turns from a deer crossing sign, then to a warning of an ‘S’ curve? Maybe the photo of the cow standing with his head behind a tree needs to have the cow in front of the tree?
Photos can be of great use to an artist or they can stifle ones creativity.