There is a grand arena in which many marvelous artists find room to invent their own interpretation of the real world. Painters such as Matisse and Braque simplified their versions of bushes and birds by identifying the essential components and leaving out the optional.
These are definitely realist paintings in some ways. We can recognize their subject matter even though it is more symbolic than descriptive. It seems fair to say that the artists want the viewer to be able to identify what is being interpreted, but rather than simply observe and duplicate the subject they devise a symbol based on the essence of the content.
An emphasis is put on abstract elements, such as shape and color, by distilling the subject down to a simple but unmistakeable form. In context, MclEmurry's sage brush is easy to recognize, even though she is not describing specific individuals.
Here are a couple of images to experiment with:
These clouds are a candidate for a symbolic treatment
Masses of green and gold supported by big dark vertical strokes
Feel free to use parts of these photos. You can combine the sky of one with the trees of another.
If you choose to use tour own images please send them along with your paintings.