Choosing A Reference Image

During the first session of Crystal Cove Conservancy’s Virtual Summer Art Camp, you’ll use choose a reference photo to use as a focus image for your exploration of plein air art.  You’ll work with your reference photo each week, breaking it down in different ways as you learn how to apply art concepts and build towards your final drawing or painting.

The images below are all of locations in Crystal Cove State Park.  We selected them for their appealing shapes, compositions, and values, which will help them translate well to a drawing or painting!  You can download a PDF of the reference images here, or pick one to save and print so you can follow along in our Virtual Summer Art Camp!

When selecting an image, keep the following questions in mind:

  • Do you like the subject matter?  Would you enjoy drawing this image multiple times?
  • How complex is the image? Paintings with architectural structures, like houses or cottages, will be more challenging, so they might be better for people who have a little past experience with drawing or painting.  In comparison, subjects like rocks or coastlines may be more beginner-friendly.
  • How many colors are in the image? If you have experience with working in color, then this may be less important. But if you’re a beginning, you may want to choose an image with less color variety.
  • Do you think your tool can capture the image? For example, if you are using a broad tipped marker, you may want to choose a reference image with less fine detail than if you were using a finely pointed pen or pencil.


Get Crystal Cove in your inbox!