I’m often asked if I use photos for my work. Absolutely. I shoot thousands of photos every year studying my subjects and their environment. That being said, I find myself working beyond what is seen in most of my reference photos… pushing colors, simplifying shapes, adjusting contrast, and adding (or subtracting) elements to visually balance a scene. “American Remnant” (10x8) is a wonderful example of what can be done with a reference photo that is lacking a bit for quality. After studying both images, the first thing you may notice is the sky. In the photo, the sky is pretty washed out and uninteresting. I darkened the clouds to add a bit of drama and emphasize the “grayness” of the fall day. The barn was a little too well-kept for my liking, so I eliminated the windows in the loft and removed a few boards (I can only imagine the dismay of the barn’s owner after taking care of the structure for so many years, then I come along and push it to tattered abandonment with a few brush strokes!). The overall scene has been warmed considerably which seems to bring everything to life. I added the goldenrod in the foreground to help with this warmth and separate the brush and flowers from the middleground. I drew on my plein air experience to work the goldenrod blooms into the scene. Most notably, the flowers in the foreground are larger and brighter than in the photo, giving the composition some depth. Adding to this effect, the overgrown trail leading the viewer into the scene completes the illusion.