I've been entering some art shows lately. Some of my art friends suggested I enter my "Koi Ripples" in some big shows. Unfortunately, the rules are they must have been painted within the last two years. "Koi Ripples" was painted 3 years ago now. (My, how time flies!).
That painting was so much fun to paint, and since it was so well received, I've decided to do a different one with the same technique. I am using a terracotta colored La Carte paper. This color is nice for the fish which are predominately orange.
When going through my photos of koi ponds, I spent a few hours looking for a good basic design. The fish had to be in an interesting arrangement and there had to be interesting negative spaces. A big bonus was interesting color patterns in the fish. A very important factor I look for is contrast (really dark areas, some medium values and some very light value areas). These are all design elements which can make a painting powerful if done well.
It is very rare that a photograph is perfect. I do a lot of cropping variations in photoshop until I hit on a composition I like. Sometimes it is a very small section of the photograph.