by Janet Glatz
Yes, I am a realism painter, but even if you are not, it is vital for you to find and refer to images of everything you paint (unless you've painted said "thing" a hundred times). If you don't, your shape, shading, and color will be all wrong.
I have done many a painting without referring to photos, and I've even sold quite a few of them. In those cases, the works were rather naif and stylized. I don't paint that way anymore. I prefer to represent mother nature the way she prefers to be represented.
Even with photos like the ones above you have to be careful. Often the colors are enhanced to an almost neon quality. In the wild, the ambient light is almost never of a quality to produce this in-your-face, exuberant color. So be ready to knock the chroma down a bit if you want to be taken seriously.
A note about using images without paying for them. I think this is okay as long as you use them with the identifying labels still on.
Using reference photos will help you with the tones and values of your shadows as well. Note the blue cast of the shadows in the left photo. They are also present in the fern photo, but mostly in the water.
Lastly, pay attention to your color wheel when using greens in your landscapes. Keep the colors harmonious by using your triads, as this will make for a much more harmonious painting.