I've painted most things of interest in my back yard; I'm getting tired of still life set-ups and coffee mugs; so I shuffled through a stack of papers on my desk to see what I could find for a reference photo. (I couldn't print anything out because my printer is kaput and I haven't yet bought a new one.) I came across a reference photo that I printed out and used about six or seven years ago, to paint a gift for a friend. She is an avid gardener, so I chose a cottage garden scene.
I thought that I had simply done a complete pencil drawing for that painting before I began it, but upon looking closely at the reference photo today, I realized that I had actually done a scribble-and-trace job on it. That's where you cover the back of your printout with graphite by running your pencil back and forth, up and down, until it's pretty solid, and then you lay your reference photo on top of your blank watercolor paper and trace around the details of the photo, which transfers the graphite to your paper. What I'm saying is, six years ago, I didn't trust myself to draw something and get it right, I had to do a tracing.
Not only that, but I simplified the painting further by cropping out some of the foreground, changing the steps and sidewalk, and leaving out that fancy white mailbox and the big pot planter on the step. Here it is:
Today, I painted the entire picture without using a pencil at all. I started in front with the poppies and worked my way backwards until I had painted everything. And although there are elements of it that certainly could have been painted better (impatience with drying always being my downfall), the location and proportion of everything in it is almost exactly that of the reference photo. The front door is a little misshapen, and should be about a quarter inch to the right, but everything else is dead on. And including the extra elements (mailbox, planter) actually made this one more detailed, though less precise and tidy.
Even though this isn't the greatest painting, I was really pleased that I could go from eye to paper without drawing, let alone tracing. And I liked my choices for more vibrant color. Progress!