Last May I posted a critique of one of my paintings (thanks again to Bill Davidson- same workshop). If you did not read that post you might want to take a look now. https://colleenparkerart.blogspot.com/2016/05/take-advantage-of-good-critique.html To summarize, my composition had several issues- a big bad shape, a focal point that was in a bad location, and nothing to lead the eye around the painting.
Here is the original painting-
The bad shape should be obvious- the big green area on the left side. The moon is close to the edge of the canvas and is too bright. Some light on the water to the right would lead the viewer away from the focal point.
In my post I said that I painted over the original painting to make the recommended changes, then painted the same painting again on a larger canvas. What I didn't say was that before I painted over the original I used this app on the above photo to help me make some decisions.
Here is the result- you can click on the image for a larger view.
I digitally painted the moon in a better spot, covered the first one with blue sky, added some reflections in the water on the right lower side and changed the bad shape. Compared to the first composition this is much better and it served as my reference when I repainted the canvas.
You can do the same thing with a reference photo to experiment with various compositions. Here is an example of a scene I painted and posted last year in June. https://colleenparkerart.blogspot.com/2016_06_01_archive.html
Inspired by a painting of Monet's of a very similar scene, I wanted to push the trees farther into the distance and exaggerate the atmospheric perspective.
Here I have pushed the groups of trees into the distance by raising the values and cooling the temperatures. The tree in the foreground now has a more interesting shape. I made more adjustments when I painted the scene but this helped me get started.
Consider the possibilities- you can move trees or mountains, simplify by removing details, make the photo more painterly with digital brushstrokes, and experiment with elements (such as clouds) you'd like to add. Someone recently told me that when I'm not actually painting I should be mentally painting. This is one way to do that.
I do not mean to suggest that this is a replacement for sketches and value studies. It is just another tool to have at your disposal and it's a LOT of fun. Load your reference photos into you tablet and work with them the next time you're stuck in an airport- a time burner that is productive!
Keep growing and experimenting!