Creating Subject Matter

I would love to know how some of you create subject matter for your paintings/ drawings. Do you take a photo and Photoshop it, paint from pure imagination, use online drawing tools to create a base model, etc. Certain artists create these ornate paintings of subjects that are out of reach of just taking a photo, they must either be able to paint anything they can think up (rain men of art) or piece subject matter together in order to create a grand masterpiece. I don’t think there’s an easy answer but I feel that I need to be a photographer, Photoshop expert, painter all in one which is certainly fine but again I’m looking for all options…Lots to learn!

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I work from photos/life/digital reference—you name it. The real challenge for me is weaving all together into a seamless vision.