Your Reference Is Not Perfect

When you start painting, you may feel this urge to paint everything in your reference photo or life scene with complete accuracy, as if the reference could do no wrong.

But there will be times when your reference is misleading, uninteresting, or simply just does not fit in with your overall composition. It is perfectly fine to make adjustments to the reference in these cases.

Perhaps you want the sunset to have a bit more red than your reference to make it pop against the dull green background, or maybe there is a wayward tree branch which should just be removed.

There are also times when you will not have the luxury of obtaining the perfect reference shot. Very often the lighting will be off and you will not have time to wait for the sun to change angles.

You are the composer and your reference is for inspiration. Your job as an artist is to create interesting and inspiring works of art. To do that, you will need to be creative and often step out from the comfort of your reference.

You may mess some paintings up when you stray from the reference in search of a more interesting composition. But it is always better to take that risk than to play the safe approach and not create that masterpiece you strive for.

Now this is not to say your reference is always wrong either. In fact, if you do your research then much of the time there are no adjustments needed. This is especially the case for still life paintings.

But don’t feel you are bound by the reference without the power to make changes.

Thanks for Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I appreciate it! Feel free to share with friends. If you want more painting tips, check out my Painting Academy course.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy


Dan Scott is the founder of Draw Paint Academy. He's a self-taught artist from Australia with a particular interest in landscape painting. Draw Paint Academy is run by Dan and his wife, Chontele, with the aim of helping you get the most out of the art life. You can read more on the About page.

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