Friday, February 15, 2013

Drawing - Using Photography

As a young artist I liked both drawing from my imagination and also from photographs. I loved trying my best to delineate all the stuff in my photo reference.

I still love working from photos. What I like best is the control it gives you as an artist. Your reference being stationary you can draw as slow or quickly as you please. Also detail is frozen in photography. whereas in sketching from life most models will not sit happily for long enough for you to capture lots of detail.

"Quasimodo the King" by M Francis McCarthy

Those are some of the pluses but there are negatives galore as well. So many that I'm going to break out a bulleted list of some of the downsides to working from photos:

  • Much of the character of your drawing will come from the photo. This can be a real issue sometimes, especially if you are not the photographer.
  • Forest for the trees syndrome; Here you get lost in all the details of the photo, losing sight of the simple forms and shapes.
  • You draw from your reference unaware of the obvious distortions certain focal lengths introduce. This is more of a problem when using photos for illustrations of landscapes, distortions can be super obvious on buildings for example.
  • Stiff, stiff, stiff art. Watch-out, as this can creep up on you and you may not see it for quite some time.
What can you do to use photography in the best way?

I think it's good to draw from life, your imagination and use photography. Mix it up and you get the best of all reference. 

Nothing beats drawing from life to sharpen the eye and help you create natural looking pictures free of the types of distortions common in photography.

Personal note: I'm often guilty of the many sins outlined here. My excuse its that I'm very into working in my studio under controlled conditions. I do like sketching and painting  from nature. However I'm not able to get the level of finish that suits my vision as an artist outdoors.

A bit about "Quasimodo" I think this is drawn circa 1991 or so. I was really into detail at the time as you can see. The was drawn on arches coldpress water color paper using a lead holder and range of leads from H to 3B.


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