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Painting from imagination

Hi, I am wondering if anyone here knows how to proceed when painting purely from imagination? I am very interested in old aircrafts and ships, and I would like to paint an oil painting of an aircraft or an ocean liner, without using a photograpy as a reference. However, I don't understand how it is possible to correctly determine highlights and reflections on the aircraft (from the ground and sky), reflections from the water on to a ships hull, or to determine the correct values, without any reference material. Many pictures were painted of aircrafts and steamships before the introduction of the color-photography, and yet the artists were able to put in the right colors, and the right values, and get a realistic painting.
Would be happy to hear your thoughts on this.


  • Just a little consideration: if u have a black and white photo u can still determine  highlights and with a bit of physics also the values.. Night vision is in black and white in humans and we still can tell almost everything.
  • You can still use photos and models for reference. For highlights all you need is to know what direction the light is from and don't overdo them. Comic book and fantasy art is all from imagination if that helps.
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