When I am not outdoors in one of my plein air painting excursions, I often take advantage of digital photography to enhance and complete a pastel painting.
Here is the reference photo for the pastel painting currently in progress. It was a lovely early summer morning in the nature preserves outside Ann Arbor, MI.
While my focus for the painting will be the wildflowers in the field, you will note that there is a lot of dull brownish-mauve grassy clutter that might make such a painting rather boring.
So I took multiple photos of this area of the Pittsfield Preserve off Marton Road, south of Ann Arbor, Michigan, near Saline On my laptop, I minimized several of these photos to see details of the variety of foliage, flowers, farm and trees in the area. Here is the screen shot on my laptop where I have juxtaposed five photos for reference:
The current version of the painting is below. You will note that I added the purple flowers (reference photo on the lower left) which were not in the main reference photo above:
So although I have added some new features to the scene, the right side of the painting still looks rather barren, except for the initial pastel layers that I blended to convey the greens, mauves and light pink and blues of the grasses.
So next, I launched Microsoft Paint and imported the above work-in-progress image. I thought, hmm, what if I added a tree toward the right side of the canvas? So in its rather crude way of drawing using the Paint application, I added a tree (digitally) in the image below.
While the digital tree is too "contrasty" and rough, it gave me an idea of how adding a tree would improve the composition. I think it does improve the composition, and by adding more highlights of flowers and lighter greens, the painting will convey a circular composition, drawing the viewer's eyes to move around the scene and possibly ending up at the bold blue tree line in the distance.
When we talk about "artist's license," we need to balance imagination with accuracy. Any objects added to a scene need to convey the proper value (lights and darks), hues, shade impacts, and be consistent with the flora and fauna of the specific location. An an extreme example, I don't think a palm tree would do well in this particular landscape.
Here's the updated pastel painting with the added tree, foliage and flowers:
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