Using Reference Photos for Art

Pacific Coast Highway photo taken with my cell phone Dec. 30, 2012 from our hotel room across the street from the ocean.
Reference photos are an excellent tool for art. Between my cell phone and my Canon PowerShot Elph300 "snappy" camera that I always keep in my purse or my back pocket, I always have a camera available to take quick pix wherever I am. The challenge, of course, is to download the images regularly and file them under key names/tags so you can locate the images when you need them.  I use the following broad topics: composite; enhanced; scenics/landscapes; people; still life. I break these main topics down to subfolders as appropriate with new pictures that I take. For example, under scenics I currently have: animals, dessert, sunset, sky, water, green & growing, and people. These might be broken down into subhead folders. For example, under green & growing I have trees, flowers, gardens.  I used the reference photo above to experiment with pencils in my travel journal the same night I took the sunset photo.
The images might trigger a piece of art while you are taking the photo like the image above, or you might file them away to use in the distant future.
I took the image of the surf along the rocky shoreline with the house in the distance while on a long weekend R&R to Cape Cod. This the image we drove by almost daily for the 25 years we lived on Cape Cod. We hadn't been "back" to the Cape in several years, and we drove around to our favorite spots and took memory pictures. I didn't have time to do anything with the pictures until several months later when we were on our annual winter vacation. I took the printed snapshot with me along with art supplies to try a new technique that I had wanted to experiment with. I applied white gesso to a journal page and embedded bits of wadded up tissue paper in the gesso. Once it was dry I used the reference photo as a guide and painted the image with acrylic paints. I embellished some areas with colored pencil. The project was totally (for me) experimental based upon an idea I had seen by artist Mary Todd Beam. It was a fun project, and I was surprised with the results. For me the
experience is not so much about the end project but the reflective thinking during the art process. In this case, I boldly tried a totally new (for me) art technique and let go of any pressure or expectation to be "good" at it. Also, during the art I reflected on the many joyous memories our family has from Cape Cod and this particular scene that we drove by so many times. While I experiemented with art I was reflecting on GRATITUDE.