For many years I was a supreme copyist. If you put a photo in front of me I could copy it and feel successful if it looked just like the photograph. Even working from life I felt the need to put record everything. The realization that this was limiting my growth as an artist came when I began plein air painting. To copy a scene before you outside is futile. The light changes constantly, the wind blows objects around and if you are painting pumpkins at an orchard it is guaranteed that the one you are painting will be purchased by someone! Plein air taught me how to interpret and not copy. It was a hard lesson and took years to fully appreciate.
For a long time I did not work from photographs because I felt that it was too easy to slip into old habits. Last year I took a workshop from Carolyn Anderson who had us work from photos one day with the idea of interpretation and not copying. It was a revelation to come back to photographs but with a plein air state of mind.
Recently I found an old photo of a dilapidated house across the street from my brother's old house in New Brunswick, Canada. The photo was an overexposed close up of the home and I thought it would be a good way to play with painting from memory. It is a farming community with rolling hills and vast skies. Last time I visited the home I walked with my brother and our families up the hill that the house sits on. It was an August day with a deep blue sky and the golden rod and asters were competing for attention from the bees. I used the photograph for the structure of the house but put the emphasis on the foreground and the rolling land that leads to the home, once that was sketched in I put the photograph away. I thought of a lazy late summer day shared with family. I thought of blackberry bushes and vistas viewed from the top of the hill. I concentrated on the memories to create the painting rather than copying the photograph. It may not be an accurate rendering of the home but it captures the feeling of the day.