Here's a shot of Bass Rocks, in Gloucester, I have an enormous file of pictures of rocks. The photos aren't that much use when I am painting water, but they are more useful when I am painting rocks. Still I do a lot of inventing. The above shot is about as perfect a little set up as you could ask for in a seascape. But it is still, "down in the hole". That is, a wave inserted into this basin would be sloshing harmlessly down around your feet, rather than coming at you at eye level, which is much more cool.
So if I am looking at this as a reference I will have to completely adjust the eye level. That gets really abstract and I can't hope to get an accurate reposition like rich Hollywood stars get with a 3D computer modeling program. But I don't need it, because I am going to design attractive shapes using only the broad ideas from the rocks. Herein follows a big idea, I hope I make it clear. I am referring to something like what Ives Gammell used to call the BIG LOOK.
I am going to notice the trends, or patterns, like the rocks get blue puddles on top and have some warm yellow facets that turn toward the viewer. I will use that red glow that "envelopes" the rocks, its like cherries down in the deep shadows. I will play that up for sure! There is also ultramarine down in those shadows which do all sort of run together. Look at how forcefully that big rock on the left juts out into the water. The furthest little rock in the distance has a wave shaped like a triangle hiding its base. And the upper part of that rock is green.
Those are large observations, rather than copying by studying out that this little piece of rock here goes next to the little detail there, and then next to that......... Do you see the difference? The design of the rocks will be mostly my own shapes, hopefully artistic, with some inflow of interesting facts from my references. Incidentally I generally have a a painting that I made on location as a jumping off point. My location sketches are too random and matter of fact to be called a real seascape in the grand sense of the word. That is an "engine", which is what the critics and academicians in the 19th century called the grand studio assembled creations of the salon era. I think a seascape should be an engine in that sense too, a crafted yet natural appearing arrangement that has a designed beauty greater than the randomness of a snapshot or an accurate study done in plein air.
I do sometimes get a sketch I make outside that can be morphed a little and work as a seascape, but generally I see them as tools for the production of largely synthetic pictures. All of the Vickerys and Waughs I have shown you were machined out in the shop by their makers.