What is the difference between drawing from life or photo reference or mirror
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    What is the difference between drawing from life or photo reference or mirror

    I'm curious to know what are the differences of drawing let's say a model from life compared to drawing a model from a photographic reference? What about drawing via mirror?

    Edit:
    "Okay I have a question. How can I get the best out of studying from reference? I see a lot of people "copying" anatomy straight from Bridgman, Hogarth etc. I understand it's near to impossible to go study cadavers so studying for muscles is a must through books and then observing afterwards in real life. But what advantages does studying from books bring and how can I get the most out of of copying for example Bridgman's studies from his book?"

    Last edited by Jussi Tarvainen; July 19th, 2008 at 03:49 PM.
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    good question

    well as far as i know there is but a little difference, the main point is that you should know how to see in the correct way. if possible i would recommend u to go through"drawing on the right side of thebrain by dr. betty edwards" its a good book which explores the scientific part of art of drawing( i am not her book agent ha ha ha) once u know the right way of seeing and understanding things and also rythm then u can draw any thing weather from photo reference or life.
    all the best.

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    Unnatural shadows that don't appear in life.
    Distorted foreshortening and skewed proportions.
    Flatness of the image leads to bad judgment of depth of field.

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    Andrew Loomis has alot to say about that in the introduction to "Sucessful drawing".

    Here's a quote by Steven Assael:

    "Drawing from life is an accumulation of subtle events made evident on a page. Unlike photography, drawing is not instantanious, but rather is sequental. A drawing can provide the viewer with a relic of compounded experiences that remains alive to the eye."

    Also, if you want to learn from copying from pictures, doing careful and precise master studies will oftenl be much more helpful, for reasons as stated above.

    Last edited by AndreasM; July 15th, 2008 at 04:22 AM.
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    -Cameras have lens distortion, see Loomis "Creative Illustration" for more on this
    -Cameras have only one eye
    -Cameras have a vastly more limited dynamic range than eyes
    -Cameras will tend to get colours wrong- your eyes can "white balance" on the fly, cameras generally can't
    -When you draw from photos the image is already flattened out to a 2d plane for you
    -You can't get up and walk around a photo to see something from a slightly different angle.

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    Space. Photos can't capture space, only surface. Drawing and painting are about reducing three dimensional forms IN SPACE onto a two dimensional surface, the camera removes you from the third dimension immediately and you're left interpreting an interpretation of life.

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    Awesome to see so many very valuable and interesting replies to this thread!
    Definitely going to look into the books suggested and keep all this information in mind.

    Thanks a lot!

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    do tons of technical, detailed drawings from life of objects like plants, objects, skeletons, etc then try and do the same with photos. the difference will hit you like night and day.

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    Steve kim:
    I'll do that!

    What about drawing via mirror?

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    A mirror is not as restrictive and distorting as a camera (assuming your mirror's not warped). You can still move your head and get different angles. But of course a mirror is really only useful for self-portraits... which is still good, especially for practicing expressions and such.

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    Drawing from a mirror *is* drawing from life. The problem with drawing from photographs is that all the hard work of converting 3D to 2D has been done for you already, even if you took the photo yourself.

    I think you are awesome, and I wish you the best in your endeavors, but I am tired of repeating myself, I am very busy with my new baby, and I am no longer a regular participant here, so please do not contact me to ask for advice on your career or education. All of the advice that I have to offer can already be found in the following links. Thank you.

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    And that hard work translates to learning stuff. When you look at a photo, you think, "there's a dark line near the eye." When you look at the same view in person, you think, "there's an indentation near the eye." That's a vastly more important thing to know.

    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).
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    Okay I have a question. How can I get the best out of studying from reference? I see a lot of people "copying" anatomy straight from Bridgman, Hogarth etc. I understand it's near to impossible to go study cadavers so studying for muscles is a must through books and then observing afterwards in real life. But what advantages does studying from books bring and how can I get the most out of of copying for example Bridgman's studies from his book?

    Thanks.

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    I'd say just dive into it. You'll get just as good answers from just trying and failing as you will get from asking in here. Get as many books as possible: bridgeman, Paul Richer, Gottfried Bammes, Elliot Goldfinger, John Robert Peck etc. Trust me, one anatomy book is never enough. They all kind of say the same thing, but each book has a special something that is often cruicial to your mental library. As for getting the most out of reference drawings, I think it's important to always do them with a certain question in mind.

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    Depth perception. 'Nuff said. D:

    Anyway, anatomy books are mostly for...well, reference. Sure, they can teach you things about the muscles and bone structures, but that knowledge works best when applied to something in real life instead of standing alone.
    I was taking life drawing and human anatomy at the same time in college, so once I started learning more, during my drawings, the process began to move faster because I knew what the bones and muscles were, where they were, how they should go [ie: the angle of the clavicles between a male and a female], their typical size, and other such things.

    It's kinda like...pb&j. Sure, it taste pretty swell with just peanut butter [life], but when you put on jelly[books], it adds an extra excitement.

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    Just to add an alternate view of it...

    When I was a beginner I picked up a lot of anatomy books (many of the traditional ones listed here). However, I wasn't really equipped to use or understand them. At that point, I was just trying to get through copying forms as I saw them and to learn from someone else's drawing was...well...just copying someone else's interruptation of anatomy. I shifted to using myself and a mirror and made vast, vast improvement. For anatomy of other types that I was not, I used nude photo ref books (which are more numerous now than they used to be).

    I also took anatomy in HS and spent a semester dissecting a cat, whose muscles roughly corresponded to ours, and that helped a lot. I think if you're able to take time to make a sculpt of bone and/or muscle you'll be able to envision them much better than in the 2D.

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    ^^^ agreed above. Also sculpture is good for reinforcing the understanding of how forms 'turn'. So that when you draw you can properly draw through the shapes and show the volume of the shape properly. I got a lot out of learning in sculpture to turn the piece and follow the form around properly and it makes me much more aware of that issue in drawing than just learning contour drawing on it's own ever did.

    Side note: I'm really curious why so many people are adamant supporters of "Drawing on the Right side of the Brain"? I read it in early high school and it came across as pretentious psuedo-scientific gobbledy-gook to me then. Considering there is a huge debate in cognitive science over whether there truly is a 'creative' or 'analytic' side only for the brain makes one wonder how that book can even make those assertions. The adaptability of the brain to overcome damage and still have all the functions grow anew in a different part of the brain kind of skews it's arguements. If you take the book less as science based and more a philosophical treatise on art, then that is fine. Just don't take it as 'biblical' art fact. ;P To me, the idea that anyone can draw is fine. But it's more about the misuse of the word 'talented' in our culture that makes people believe they can or can't draw.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jhgoforth View Post
    Side note: I'm really curious why so many people are adamant supporters of "Drawing on the Right side of the Brain"? I read it in early high school and it came across as pretentious psuedo-scientific gobbledy-gook to me then.
    The things to take away from that book are:

    1. that anyone can draw if you want to
    2. what we see vs what we think we see, or true observational drawing and seeing, breaking down everything to 2d forms that anyone can handle.

    It's really irrelevant which side is doing what. it's the best primer for learning to draw that i know of course until i write one hohohoho

    It may not be as useful for ca'ers because most people here believe they can learn to draw if they put their mind to it. However for the general public drawing has a mystical air. Yet, it'd be good for most people to look at it if they haven't already done so because I see tons and tons of concepts that really struggle because the artist has yet to devote time to real observational drawing.

    Last edited by Elwell; July 31st, 2009 at 07:12 PM.
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    What is the difference between drawing from life or photo reference or mirror

    uh, if you're missing an eye I guess. Depth perception certainly makes a difference in drawing and painting from life, as does having the freedom to take a step sideways and better understand the form you're looking at as it turns.

    I work from photos when I paint, so I'm not in any way saying that it's not a good practice, but to say that it's the same as direct observation from life is just ridiculous.

    3D is just perspective, unless you like to tell me it's something else. There's 3D and perspective in a picture too, in essence, the projection your eye gets is similar because it's similar to how a camera works. Just as I thought, people use unsubstantiated claims that it's "different" though and claim 3D real life has some mystical extra quality a picture can't show.

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    Like others said, it is definitely 3d perception and seeing things as more than what they are and to make sense and feel the object.

    However in my opinion 2d gives you the ability to learn construction first anytime, anywhere. If you draw without being aware of the underlying construction and just try to copy it, then regardless of whether or not you draw from life or from a photo, it won't be helpful. Photos and videos give you the luxury of working at your own time and convenience so you can understand the underlying anatomy better before you study in depth on the field. Because in the field your characters move and interact and often are there for only a glimpse.

    The most important thing is to understand what you are drawing and to visualize things in 3d.

    Get a book to help you with visualizing and drawing through. With the knowledge of construction in mind, you can apply what you learned in the studio to what you see on the road, at the zoo, people watching, etc. without getting confused at how to draw things.

    Last edited by WhisperPntr; July 31st, 2009 at 06:30 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flake View Post
    -Cameras have lens distortion, see Loomis "Creative Illustration" for more on this
    -Cameras have only one eye
    -Cameras have a vastly more limited dynamic range than eyes
    -Cameras will tend to get colours wrong- your eyes can "white balance" on the fly, cameras generally can't
    -When you draw from photos the image is already flattened out to a 2d plane for you
    -You can't get up and walk around a photo to see something from a slightly different angle.
    I agree with this. BUT I have always seen cameras having only one eye as an advantage. Humans, having two eyes, see objects at two different angles. The angle change happens, obviously, at the center of your vision where the two observed images are blended. This can be seen in quite an obvious way when looking at a reflective surface (ex.-cars) You observe two totally different sets of reflections. Also, since we have two angles instead of one..I would imagine you actually see more of an object than we are "supposed" to. Especially when it comes to perspective, since both of our eyes are not lined up, we see things from two different perspectives. Anywho..that's my take. Someone please tell me if Im wrong. Haha!!

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