I love to paint from my imagination; I also love to paint from life. I don’t like to copy anything. It is so boring and so unsatisfying.
As artists we are blessed with what I call “artist eyes” we see things differently. We use our eyes to find the beauty in everyday objects which helps us communicate our feelings with our art to others.
We see the small details in nature that others never see. When painting we use our eyes to help up compose, rearrange the parts of our paintings, to create great compositions and color mixtures.
I have seen students bring great references to class only to not look at what is right before them. They will start painting something and instead of relying on their eyes to tell them what is true they start painting from their memory. They paint what they remember something looks like, and usually it does not look like the thing they are painting at all.
Even if you want to create something out of your own imagination you need to have some understanding or your subject.
That is unless you are going to paint an abstract.
Using your reference for “reference” is a wonderful way to paint but copying your reference exactly is not! However, many of the great artists of today started out copying the great masters and this is a great way to learn, but you need to remember that if you want to progress this is just a stage that you need to pass through.
A great exercise is to copy a great masterpiece and learn the techniques the artist used to create it and then paint it again changing it to make it distinctively yours. Remember this is just an exercise, you cannot sell this as it would be copyright infringement.
You can learn a lot about handling colors and technique by astutely copying another’s work. Then as you move along you can apply what you have learned in your own way.
Once you gain some trust in your own eyes and ability, you can start creating your very own masterpieces. You will be surprised how much more you will enjoy painting if you are expressing your own vision instead of someone else’s.
One thing I noticed in my classes was that often the students would see a bright sky and paint it less intense. A beautiful sunset was painted 'dulled" down.
They were afraid to trust what they saw, the colors seemed too bright to them , when in reality they were actually the true colors of nature. When they trusted what they saw, and painted it that way thier work became wonderful pieces of art with lots of visual impact, paintings that one could stare are forever!