Further to my discussion about sketching, one of my guilty secrets is that I often end up painting from photos. The attitude of many landscape artists, myself included, is that painting outdoors, en plein air, has much more integrity. Of course if I stick to Maine as my subject, that means I would only get in a couple of weeks of painting a year. Also, it's patently impossible not to seem like you're trying to draw curious onlookers. It's not their fault, but there is the constant tension of a surreptitious audience wondering whether to approach. Then there are the little challenges like schlepping around equipment and supplies, cleaning up, and finding a bathroom.
I can't say that I'm always going to paint outdoors, but I think it is important for me to get in the habit of doing so regularly. It's a very different exercise to isolate my subject from my entire field of vision rather than having it preframed in a photo. When I cock my head a little differently, suddenly all the relationships between the objects change-- not that I'm going for total accuracy, but it can be disorienting. As I'm painting the light changes, the tides move, clouds roll in, and I have to adapt the image. I have the opportunity to examine what that mysterious hump in the shadows really is. And painting outdoors in Maine is singularly fantastic when the skeeters aren't in flight.