Hi Nancy, i often do it with a pic that isn't quite right. like a lil washed out or something. not always tho. sometimes i start playing around with totally normal pics....
I use the Topaz software. http://www.topazlabs.com/
my son in law Jacob does high end advertising work, and a spectacular photographer recommended it to him and i have been playing with it ever since. I have the whole set. topaz adjust and topaz simplify i use a LOT. topaz detail quite a bit. clean and denoise have their own special times. with crappy pixelated stuff.
but i often begin with topaz adjust's "adjust exposure"
then peek at a "photo pop"
then start playing. if the detail is missing, i'll use topaz detail.
topaz simplify is awesome.
simplify has a few painting presets, but i usually need to tweak those a bit to get the right sized "brushstroke look" sorta. you can see the detail slip away and come back as you play with the sliders.
in topaz adjust there is a "spicify" preset that can really be something
used it here:
top picture here //AmbergrisCaye.com/photogallery/100304.html
but its USUALLY too much. takes a certain pic to handle that much spice i guess! luckily in photoshop you can re-apply a percentage of the filter after you undo one. so you can see what it does, undo, then give it whatever% of the whole dose.
its a lot of fun. also good for pics say that you only have small, and need a bigger one. blow it up, it gets crappy, but then run denoise to clean it up a bit then run simplify and it really takes the crap away and gives you a nice slightly posterized picture
lotsa fun tho. makes for some cool paintings on the wall for clients that have a nice photo of their place. turn it into a painting and put a nice one on the wall...