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The inspiration for the above painting came from several photo references. I recently suggested to my students, taking the composition class, that they could free themselves a little from the constraints of working from one photograph. I felt this would open up a new world for them to create from. We become, over time, so attached to working from one photograph that we forget that we have a wealth of information available to us from real life and our techniques we have learned from watercolor class. They were to take a landscape photo thatΒ  really liked and include a dominant tree, something man-made and something living (other than a plant); like people or animals.

I chose a photo my sister had taken in New Mexico during the winter months and it included this worn home and the large shrub -like trees on the right. I searched Wet Canvas for a photo of children and found the three placed here on the porch of the home. I chose a tree from a grouping I found in my photo reference book for artists and used a portion of it for the large tree in the foreground that overlaps this scene.

The challenge became working with the values and colors of each of my photographs, as well as their proportions. The tree in the foreground had to be enlarged for this scene and the colors changed to balance with the warm oranges and reds in the prominent bushes on the right. The children became “wee” images of the original reference I had available. I had to change their clothing colors so they would be visible and not become lost in shadows cast by the large bush-like trees on the right. I was attracted to the splats of light in this as well as the long shadows reminding me of the early morning light in late February as the days are becoming longer and the promise of spring is right around the corner. I imagined the children I had created as waiting for their school bus.

I liked that creating a painting with guidelines like this prompted me to create a story. How interesting when we take that extra step into creating with what we have at hand…..


  1. Oh, Leslie! I love how you combined these images! I never would have known, if you didn’t tell me!

    • What a wonderful comment! You just made my day, Kate! I kind of lost the children in the shadow cast by that large bushy thing on the right and had been kicking myself for that. So, Thank you! It reminds me to not be too “picky”. πŸ™‚

  2. Thanks for the info on how you combined the images to make it work. The painting looks great.

    • Thank you, Bongo! …and thankyou for letting me know it’s “Love Your Pet Day”! πŸ™‚

  3. Beautiful work, as always, Leslie!

  4. This is so completely charming, like something out of a children’s book. I love it. I love every detail here: the tree in the foreground, the children, the snow on the ground … the colors are lovely. It’s a story … quite wonderful.

    • Thank you, thank you, Jamie. You just verified what I shared with my students. Mixing things up and putting them back together can often create a story in a picture. I have tons of respect for the childrens’ book illustrators. I often kick back and page through picture books and draw in all the feeling the artists pour into their images.

  5. This is amazing.
    Interesting contrast between this Winter scene and the warm colors you used for the trees.

    • Thank you, Cha. I think it was just that that drew me to want to paint this; the warmth in the cold.

  6. This is beautiful! πŸ™‚

  7. I love the way you combined elements from different references, the extra step yileded a stunning composition. The eye travels beyond the foreground trees, tries to enjoy the various details beyond, as if the whole scene is in front of you, hats off Leslie!

    • Thank you, so much, Padmaja. I always marvel at the stories your work tells. This comment means a lot to me.

  8. What a wonderful piece! I always love trees and shrubs and to have a house nestled within and children living there…It just comes together beautifully!!

    • You are making me smile! It was that shrub that totally caught my eye! I know you like pets, especially dogs and it was going to be some children or a dog on that porch, Sherry. πŸ™‚ Thank you for this comment and your visit.

  9. I love this painting, Leslie. The texture on the house and the beautiful colors. Nudging your students to think outside the box of the single photo is such a wonderful thing to teach.

    • Wow, Gretchen. Thank you. Part of what I like so much about painting is taking that white piece of watercolor paper and recording something on it. This exercise satisfied in so many ways.

  10. Oooh!!..A well told story Leslie, I shivered and felt the coldness, the sharp freshness of a quick intake of visible breath, a wake-up call on walking outside from the cocooning warmth of indoorsy manmade heat. The garden vegetation snoozing, hibernating, in wait for the waking, warming fingers of Spring… thro’ to Summer… Love the whole composition.
    It’s great to be back, xPenx

    • Hey! Welcome back, Pen! Thank you for the visit and sharing your thoughts about this piece. You and Jamie have given me gifts by seeing the story. Thank you! πŸ™‚

  11. What a lot of great ideas coming togehter to create a wonderful painting! Thanks for the reminder that we need to think out of the box…I will be using that to compose some things waiting for me to get moving on. You are always so helpful; miss you.

    • We miss you!!!!! Come home! Thank you for taking time to visit and pick up on this, Sheryl. πŸ™‚

  12. How lovely and I would never have known it was made up of different photo references if you hadn’t said! Funny enough I’m working from two different photos on a painting at the moment too.

    • Well, thank you, Nicola! Just read your interview article in the paper, your way. Perfect!

  13. Nice work, leslie – esp like the shadow on the building. My apologies for not visiting more often. I barely have time to blog now..hope all is well

    • I understand about the time to visit, Frank. Thanks for that about the shadow. Had to be there didn’t it? It was so very faint, but there, nonetheless. πŸ™‚

  14. Besides being a wonderful artist you are also a wonderful teacher. Thanks for the info on how you did this painting. It came out great. And I like the info on how you pieced different images together to make one beautiful painting.

    BTW, I STILL can’t figure out that wet canvas site!

    • I know. Wet Canvas is hard. I don’t know how to post things or join in the forums, etc.
      Thank you for your comment about my piecing things together. I wish I could bring imagery out of my imagination like Hannekekoop does. Baby steps. πŸ™‚

  15. This is wonderful, Leslie! I especially love the color. When I painted the Hi Hat coffee shop, I used 3 different reference photos from 3 different angles. It was fun to not be so confined by the reference image. πŸ™‚

    • You rock, Beth! It is fun to create with more than one reference in mind. I think you are even more creative than I, at least from having viewed your work over the last few years. I admire that in you. πŸ™‚

  16. Who is on the bus? Is somebody coming to visit the children? Their grandparents or an older brother or sister? I love it, Leslie and I love the dreamy look of the colours.

    • That is why you are so creative and I have to think up challenges. You have someone visiting while I was thinking school bus. Thank you for another storyline this painting revealed, Hannekekoop. πŸ™‚

    • Katy Boyer's Bliss Bait Art
    • Posted March 8, 2013 at 3:09 pm
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    Awwww! They are so sweet! The whole picture, of course, is BEAUTIFUL….but I LOVE it because although the children’s features aren’t there….I can feel them….their spirits….their fun togetherness. I want to be in the kitchen behind that door making delicious hot cocoa and cookies for them. Truly lovely. Thank You! πŸ™‚

    • I can see you there! I can hear you there! …and your garden is just behind the shed, there. Thank you, Bliss! πŸ™‚

  17. How beautiful and soft. What a great wintery scene! I love it!

  18. Like this one Les

  19. The three children are just what the house needed – literally and figuratively! I really like your combination of different elements and the creation of a story. Nice, Leslie.

    • Thank YOU for the photo reference for this house and that ancient bush and for the permission to use it to paint from. …and thank you for taking the time to visit and to comment. πŸ™‚

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  1. […] other darker? Where would our center of interest be? Would it be the doorway, a reflective window, a person standing outside? How did our structure or structures contrast or fit into the landscape […]

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