I put together this little demo in case anyone may find it interesting and/or helpful. The subject is from photos of downtown Hallowell, Maine on a summer afternoon. This is a good example of why artists use photos for reference as opposed to simply copying them. First, the photos came out rendering the light as cool, greenish gray. My actual experience of the scene was of the light being brighter and warmer. This is why I typically tone a canvas with a burnt sienna wash before applying paint as you can see in the first image of the painting.
I didn't want the pickup dominating the middle of the composition, so I put in the cars as they appeared in the first photo. However, I thought the first photo diminished the town too much with all that street and sky, so I based the composition on the second photo. I didn't like the power lines cutting across the scene and the big electrical box on the side of the building on the right, so those were left out. Finally, the hill at the far end of town was made more dominant as it truly appears. Camera lenses tend to exaggerate the size relationship between close and distant objects. So, something in the foreground can look huge, while a hill (as in this case) can seem to be miles away. It helped to make the hill look higher by condensing the distance between the large tree on the left and the buildings on the right.
So, in summing up, be aware of light and color, composition and lens distortions when using photos. Now to the painting, I like to draw the composition with vine charcoal because it erases easily with a rag when you need to adjust things. Its harder to get detail with this soft charcoal than say with a pencil, but that's okay because the way I paint, I'd tend to cover over any small detail anyway and just have to paint it in again. After the burnt sienna wash and charcoal layout, I established the darkest and lightest values. These are under and around the cars and parts of the buildings. This helps find the parameters of where the rest of the values lie, which would have to be lighter than the darkest areas and darker than the lightest spots. The progress of this painting will be covered in future blogs.