Paintings of Nothing
One of my students remarked that I paint pictures of nothing. She didn't mean this as an insult; she said that I make nothing look good.
What she did mean was that I don't bring in reference photos of scenic lakes and mountains for the demos on landscape, instead, I bring images of - well - nothing, really.
One week it was a picture of a dried out marshy landscape with a line of dusty, winter-weary evergreens in the background. But it did have a point to it: there were some low, scrubby willows in the mid-ground which were beginning to come to life. The branches were an unusual lime-green that I'd never seen in willows before. That was the focal point for me and what I emphasized in the demo. Everything else was just the stage on which this main character could be dropped.
If you really look at what's around you, there are paintings everywhere: in the shadow that a tree casts on the ground, in a puddle in the dirt, or in a cranky child on a couch. There is something interesting, arresting or beautiful absolutely everywhere.
This subversive idea should never be revealed to your non-painting spouses, however. When you tell them that you absolutely must go to Provence for that painting workshop, you need to be able to tell them that France's scenery is so much more paint-worthy than anything that you have at home.
Above is a photo of nothing and the painting that it inspired. The point of this was the unusual light on the field behind the fence of this rubbish-strewn yard. There's beauty everywhere.