Workbench with hammer, paintbrush and wood.

Reference Photo Simplification

I create my watercolor paintings in a studio from reference photos taken by myself or supplied by other people.  My method for creating the “Creative Workbenches” was to take random photos in a workspace and look through them later to find a section or grouping that would capture the personality of the creative person.  The nice part of being an artist is that I can take out parts and put in pieces in different places if it works better for a finished painting.  That is good thing, because I am not skilled at photography, and I don’t have the patience to set up a scene with the best lighting and maneuvering things around to get the perfect shot.  When I started taking photos for my artwork, I increased my appreciation of artists 10-fold.

Can You Find the Painting in This Photo

A table with a large number of screw drivers and drill bits.

Here is an example of a reference photo provided by my brother.  I am not sure if he was cleaning up or just showing off, but this was a table covered by a collection of all the screwdrivers, drill bits and drivers he had found in his shop.  I suppose this would not jump out at everyone and say, WOW, wouldn’t that make a great painting, but thought I should be able to do something with all of these parts and pieces.

 Using a photo editor, I was able to isolate various area of the photo and zoom it to get details.  After many different combinations I decided that the small red box in the bottom right corner was a pretty good representation of all the items on the table. 

Would you have picked some other areas?  Maybe I could have done a couple of different paintings?

Final Painting from Reference Photo 

An open tool kit containing a variety of screwdrivers and tips.

The original painting was a 5 x 7-inch watercolor that was purchased by a second cousin.  He reminded him of my dad, who was also a carpenter.  My dad was kind of a messy desk guy, and his workbench would have been cluttered with a variety of tools.  I told my cousin; I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of the bits and drivers found their way into my brother’s workbench.  

I call my workbenches Object Portraits because the objects tell the story of the owner.  In my solo show Oct 15, 2022 (see event page), I will show some of the reference photos and you will be able to see what I started with and how I used reference photo simplification to create a better composition.  

If this painting reminds you of someone you love, have it digitized so it can be reproduced, just let me know using the contact page so I can give you options.


An original object portrait watercolor painting of a toymaker's workbench with brushes, hammers and box cutter.
Prepared, Toymakers Creative Workbench

Finished painting to the reference photo above.

 “Prepared’ Creative Workbench



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