Margie (http://www.margiesartstudio.blogspot.com/) asked on firstname.lastname@example.org how everyone goes about the creative process--do you paint from your imagination? Only from life? Only from references? I thought that was a good question to illustrate with a painting (and a back story).
I have to have references. I am so envious of people who can paint from imagination (like Margie--look at her characters on her blog!). But I don't seem to be able to paint from within my head--or at any rate, very badly.
Frequently, however, I decide the subject of what I want to feature and then go looking for things to assemble, and they can be in-person, photos from Google Images, whatever. Here is a painting I did as a final assignment.The semester-long assignment from the watercolor class I was taking (from Carol Bishop at Los Angeles Valley College, a great teacher and mentor!) was to choose an object (mine was a blue teapot) and paint it every single week for an entire semester, looking at other artists' work and taking something from them to express in your rendition of the object: color palette, brush technique, theme, whatever. And the final assignment was to take everything you had learned and do a painting in your own style.
I soon got really bored with painting the damn teapot, so I kept trying to think of creative ways to use it. It featured in various paintings as an animated character, the moon, a teensy prop in the background, a wallpaper design...somewhere the teapot was there, but rarely the main event after the second or third assignment.
This painting included a back view of one of my "yard" cats from a window that I sketched really quickly one day, the blue teapot (from my kitchen), a mouse I found from a rodents and marsupials book in the library, trees/forest ditto from a botany book, and I also looked on the internet for a photo of Cinderella's carriage and the glass slipper to get good references from which to paint. I assembled them all, and figured out how to put them into perspective with each other, then combined them into this one picture. It's a plodding way to work, but my imagination seems to be limited to ideas ABOUT the painting rather than the visualization of the actual contents. It's called "Bereft of Cinderella."