How I paint with photography - Never Ending New York

Sometimes I get asked how I work and that is difficult to answer since my assignments are very different.

I went from painting and drawing the analog way to digital only 3 1/2 years ago. It was really tough and I didn't really feel like it, but it was just something I had to do to survive.
The growing demand for digitally made art was booming and I felt like a neanderthal trying to cling to my craft. The demand for digital art from advertising agencies, publishers and printers was escalating because it was a lot faster and cheaper to produce and print. So eventually it was something I had to learn.

I remember it was just a clean cut switch -  learning by doing kind of thing,  from one job to the next.
If I really had to do this, I felt had to get paid for it at the same time! So over a couple of jobs I slowly progressed and got the hang of it . Now I have grown to love Photoshop and I have wonderful dreams at night in many layers.

I often wonder about artists who went to great lengths to make a digital make image look like it was painted the analog way. Why not just paint it analog then? I have come to like the digital look and all the possibilities and tricks you wouldn't be able to do in real life.

Since I live in New York I love to go out in the city an shoot photos. Often I'll use my photos along with other royalty free photos and cut them up, mash stuff together and use that to paint from or on top of.
Here is how I did one of those pictures:

First of all - here is the finished painting - Never Ending New York.

I knew I wanted to do a futuristic New York street scene, so I took a street shot with a lot of depth. I had an idea about a city that just went on and on and never ended, just kept going in all directions. So this photo would be the foundation for that.

Step 2 was to paint in the building extensions and to determine the lighting of the overall scene.

Step 3. Part of my idea was also to have a lot of connecting corridors and bridges, so I started painting in those one by one. (in this phase I end up having a lot of layers that are a complete mess with a dozen different opacity and transparency settings. Usually I'll try to merge certain layers to simplify things somewhat.)

Step 4. At some point I feel this part is done, so I reverse the process and go from the far background to the closest up front part and start working my way into the picture. I added a large connecting bridge all the way out front for scale and it adds to the depth. Also I added some cars and street signs and stuff. Next step is throwing in some firefighters and a fire - 
I like to have several stories going on in my pictures.

Step 5. I added one more large element to the foreground, a monster truck yellow cab. This is another thing I like to do, ad some kind of futuristic element that is still recognizable and iconic because it adds to the illusion.
However, the left side of the picture wasn't really working for me. It was too dark and kind of boring in terms of the architecture. I went through my photos and found something else that I felt would work better. After some tweaking and painting it looked the way I wanted it to and the image was finally done.

                                Here is a screenshot of the original photo and the final painting,

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