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Thread: Jeff's Observations on Drawing from Life

  1. #14
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    Not really - I tried to be very objective and didn't consider medium at all - just whether their work moved me in any way. It is true that this was probably 15 years ago when I went through that analysis, so there wasn't a lot of digital work around. Don't get me wrong, I love the digital medium. I've been making digital art since about 1986...its the core of my career - but it isn't the best medium to learn visual art fundamentals.
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    It is indeed an agonising proccess having to search for real life props everytime you need to make a scene. Eventually one has to be able to rely on his/her visual memory banks and conjure the 3D object and how light hits it on the fly.. One also has to be able to visualise that object in variety of different real life settings and how they would affect it.
    My ex was allways making beautifull renders from real life, until i asked her to draw something that is not infront of her and she choked.
    It is humbling to practice the skill of observation and translation, as long as you don't forget that the goal is not to be a human photo camera, but rather to be able to conjure realism from your brain, where ever and when ever.
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    good stuff jeff altough i have yet to draw anything from life... just photos...
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Not really - I tried to be very objective and didn't consider medium at all - just whether their work moved me in any way. It is true that this was probably 15 years ago when I went through that analysis, so there wasn't a lot of digital work around.
    That's sort of what I'm getting at - 15 years ago digital painting was still new. Most of the really good painters would have spent the previous 30 years working with physical mediums just because it was the best thing going.


    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Don't get me wrong, I love the digital medium. I've been making digital art since about 1986...its the core of my career - but it isn't the best medium to learn visual art fundamentals.
    Why? I've got oils and acrylics here and I wouldn't wish them on anyone.

    Pencil on the other hand I think can be justified, at least until Cintiq screen resolution increases by about 10 times.
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    Jack - thanks for the input. I don't really think it matters which medium one uses - what matters is the result. With the important exception that certain media lend themselves to unique expressions or styles - in other words, the various media each have their own look. I've never understood why people working with digital media would try to or want to simulate traditional media with it. Digital has its own aesthetic which is entirely unique and can be pushed to do amazing things (Android Jones and John Picacio come to mind). If you want it to look like an oil painting then paint it in oils, marker, pastel, etc. If you want to do digital work don't use it to simulate somehting else.

    There are a variety of reasons why learning the fundamentals through traditional media is a better approach - there has been a lot of discussion around here lately on that very topic. I realize it is somewhat counter-intuitive because one would think you have access to so many tools, tutorials and examples all right there at your fingertips - but digital tools lack the basic flexibility, portability and simplicity of traditional media.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kraus View Post
    It is indeed an agonising proccess having to search for real life props everytime you need to make a scene. Eventually one has to be able to rely on his/her visual memory banks and conjure the 3D object and how light hits it on the fly.. One also has to be able to visualise that object in variety of different real life settings and how they would affect it.
    My ex was allways making beautifull renders from real life, until i asked her to draw something that is not infront of her and she choked.
    It is humbling to practice the skill of observation and translation, as long as you don't forget that the goal is not to be a human photo camera, but rather to be able to conjure realism from your brain, where ever and when ever.
    Hey Kraus - thanks for the comment. I think you definitely have to work from the imagination when designing your scene - exploring the idea through composition thumbnails, lighting sketches, etc. Then when you get a pretty clear rough established, most artists work from life or shoot photo reference to go for a final painting. The better your "memory bank" is, and the more you understand about the fundamentals the better your process sketches will be. In the end even the best guys go to life for the subtle and unique information you can't pull out of your head.

    James Gurney's book "Imaginitive Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist" is loaded with great examples of exactly this kind of approach. His blog is also probably the best blog out there right now for people interested in illustration.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    but digital tools lack the basic flexibility, portability and simplicity of traditional media.
    ArtRage is simple. My Tablet PC is portable. The screen washes out in strong light, but maybe a shade would be a good idea at any rate. I don't know what you mean by "lack of flexibility." Digital tools seem to be infinitely flexible to me.

    Sorry if I'm being annoying but I don't see where you're coming from. I'd think digital tools would by far and away have the advantage, if only because you don't have to worry about how fast or slow the paint is going to dry.
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    You're not being annoying - but we hash this out all the time around here. Here's one recent thread - I think I posted around #19 - there are plenty more. I think digital is an advantage with certain types of rapid visualization and matte painting. Though a skilled traditional artist will still probably generate more useful concepts at a higher volume than a digital artist. The advantage to digital is in the ease of shifting colors, moods and elements at the whim of the art director. For matte painting I think there are many more additional advantages.

    But back to learning and flexibility - digital just isn't the best place to learn fundamentals because the fundamentals are best learned studying from life in a traditional manner. My little profile pic there was taken on top of a cliff - that was a short three day workshop I taught - I did ten paintings - all sold or were the basis for studio works. Some I did on the beach - a couple on cliffs - some were smallish - 6x8, the largest was 12x24. That's what I'm talking about with flexibility.

    I'm not sure why people get so worked up about digital - I like it - it is probably my "primary" medium in many ways - I just don't think you should try to make it be all things.
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  12. #22
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    One problem with digital is that it works in pixels.

    Most pixels are tiny rectangle on the screen. It's easier for the computer to read rectangles, and It's easier to measure too.

    Another thing is that in digital the artist doesn't really need to improvise since the artist has "The All-Mighty Ctrl+Z."

    But, what do I know?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flashback View Post
    Another thing is that in digital the artist doesn't really need to improvise since the artist has "The All-Mighty Ctrl+Z."
    You can scrape off oils with a palette knife easily enough when working wet on wet and you can remove fresh glazes as well. With pencil there is always the rubber.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Black Spot View Post
    You can scrape off oils with a palette knife easily enough when working wet on wet and you can remove fresh glazes as well. With pencil there is always the rubber.
    And with Ink or Watercolor there's always Gouache.
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    Jeff maybe you could suggest a book on painting. Mind you I am looking (oddly enough) for a simplistic 1-2-3 'how-to' book that has some info or help on technical aspects such as, 'why isn't the damn paint sticking on the surface over the other layer of paint'. You know, just a book with some aspects of that nature, simple stuff that a teacher could answer in 10 seconds, nothing too special. I have books on painting that cover other aspects. Richard Schmidt's Alla Prima is excellent, and by the way everyone should get a copy in my opinion, even if you're not painting yet.
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  17. #26
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    Sure Michael - I'll just list a few that I got started with:

    "Oil Painting Secrets form a Master" by Linda Cateura - really this is a book of notes from David Leffel's classes.
    "Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting" - by John Carlson - considered one of the "bibles" or must have books - only black and white but loaded with insight.
    "Capturing Light in Oils" by Paul Strisik
    "Oil Painting for the Serious Beginner" by Steve Allrich
    "Fill Your Paintings with Light and Color" by Kevin Macpherson - Kevi nalso has a newer book "Landscape Painting Inside and Out" but I don't have a copy.
    Barron's Guides to...I've also found to be really useful - they have one on oils, still life, figure, etc.

    The problem is most books (including the ones I listed) deal more with observation, approach and a few of the practical matters like making panels and such. I can't think of any areas where they deal much with paint handling/application. Mainly this is because it just comes through practice and there are too many variables - paint brand/consistency, use and type of medium, surface, etc.

    Are you having trouble specifically or are you looking for some resources you can share with students? Just curious - when it comes to paint handling there are some rules of thumb to keep in mind:
    Paint "fat over lean" - work with thin paint first - no medium except a little turp - that will dry pretty quickly - especially outdoors - develop the next layer with more impasto brushwork if it suits you.
    I recommend staying away form medium is general for a few years - it can be difficult to manage and adds another level of complexity to painting.
    Develop a "delicate facility" with your brush - for later, finishing passages hold it near the end, loosely - load it well and apply the paint with the "flat" or side of the brush rather than scrubbing it in directly with the bristles.

    I hope that helps - if I had to recommend one or two of those I would say three: Leffel, Allrich and the Carlson books. If you have any more questions feel free to ask.

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