I once had a chance to visit Croatia on my way back home when I visited England in 2011. I had a long walk within the Plitvice Lakes National Park and took some photos there. Based on one of the photos, this pastel drawing has been created.

This is the reference photo:

My first try ended up as a failure. I tried to reproduce the colours in the photo precisely, but it did not work so well as seen in the photo when shown in a pastel drawing:

I first thought that this was not going to be successful when I started working on the bottom part of this work. I had no idea how to express the yellowish part of the lake where you can see a lot of things happening underwater. I added a bit of brown there and as soon as I did so , I realised I messed up the work. The brown was too strong and even though I tried to neutralize it by adding some light yellow there, this part became too cloudy and there seemed no means to correct this. So I decided to give up on this first version.

Also, the twigs in the middle of the scene were to be ignored but I added them in the first work. I was not able to make the lines thin enough so the twigs in this version stood out too much. I tried erasing them by adding blue over there, but the twigs did not disappear perfectly. Again, there seemed no means to correct this error, so my decision to drop this first version was finalized.

I did my second try on this subject on the next day. I was pondering how differently I should work on it this time and basically I thought I wanted to make it simpler by omitting some elements from the photo: i.e. the tiny things underwater and the twigs, plus some leaves which make the scene a little bit noisy. Then, I could expect that the right-hand side and the upper portion of the picture plane would become heavier, so I thought I should add something with the water part to achieve a good balance on the whole. Enhancing the gradation of the colours was one thing I decided to employ. This alone might have been good enough , in which case the gradation per se plays the leading role of the scene. But I thought maybe I should make this work a bit easier to understand by adding a more distinct focal point. Hence the two little birds on the water.

A photo is a reference, and creating an artwork is not equal to producing a replica of the photo. This is something I repeatedly heard in many of the member’s minute episode of the Virtual Instructor. I thought I knew it well enough. but the experience I had this time indicates that I was wrong. Especially when I use a photo which looks perfect as it is, be it the composition, the value range, the colour usage, I tend to make myself too loyal to the photo. In other words, I tend to stop thinking creatively when I like the photo.

This habit is something I need to address. For my future works, I will always try to create independent artworks no matter how good the reference photo is.