Last month I wrote a post about creative exercises to get you inspired. Exercise 5 on that list was using one reference photo to make lots of different paintings. This is something I frequently do, and for more reasons than just creative inspiration (although it's great for that too). Sometimes I'll crop a photo into a bunch of different compositions because I love the scene and want to paint it again in a new way. Other times I'll crop a photo in a few different ways then make small paintings to figure out which one(s) I like the most and might want to paint larger.
There are also scenes that have so many interesting things happening, any of them could be the focal point of a painting. Waves often fall into this category for me, and I frequently find myself cropping and chopping one photo into lots of different paintings.
All these paintings came from the photo above.
I started by painting the scene much the way it is in the photo (which was already cropped from the original picture).
Then, I zoomed in even closer, painting two parts of the wave in more detail.
For the final version I zoomed into the wave again, but decided to add in the sky (which was visible in the original version of the photo).
Doing small studies like this is also great for loosening up, and immersing yourself in subject matter that's new or you haven't worked with for a while. I hope you give it a try, and if you do let me know!