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Thread: Using Reference/creating your own image and lightining

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    Using Reference/creating your own image and lightining

    Hi guys,

    Sorry for the confusing title - but hear me out, I think this would be good discussion (and if anyone can suggest a better title then let me know!)

    So, I was wanting to paint a picture of my friend, and he's an Photographer, and he took a great picture of himself - which inspired me to use as reference - thing is, if I paint him, I'll be using that picture as a reference - but I'll just copy what's on the photograph - so what is the point in painting it in the first place?

    So how do we use references or combine them to create new scenes/images - if I wanted to paint him, in different lighting or a different pose, (urgh, this is so hard for me to explain) ....basically, I don't want the painting to be a direct rip from the photo, it isn't very creative. Is it? Sure, I could painting in a nice background and change the colour scheme...still isn't different enough?

    Example - I want to paint a picture of the character George from Being Human :

    Using Reference/creating your own image and lightining

    I could always get a reference picture of George, from a promo shoot and copy that ...but like I said above, it's not what I want to do.

    So how do I go about creating a whole different image - how can I create my own lighting and expression - for example, I don't want to paint him with that kind of expression...


    I'm being totally unclear here, sorry. Can someone help? :|
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  3. #2
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    Be imaginative. Imagine said face being projected onto a egg-shape or something and go from there.
    Amateur Artist. Professional Asshole.

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    Well you give him a less vacant expression by focusing the eyes and maybe make him happier, it doesn't take much, just a small uplift at the edges. Also that background adds nothing to him, so that has to go - paint something behind him that helps to define him.
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    Did you check the photo reference sticky yet? I remember seeing a lot of good advice there...

    It's this thread: http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=123346
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    Well, to be honest, that is a really, really tough thing to do. I assume you're talking about painting a realistic portrait in the classic sense? You really have two choices - stick with the photo with maybe minor tweaks as suggested (backgrounds are not important - many portraits just drop them out) or develop the image with the model sitting. There are other options but they get more complicated - like do an accurate bust sculpture you can work from, an accurate 3D model, etc.

    So if you're doing this with a friend - ask them to pose for a sitting. If it is supposed to be a surprise or gift then maybe do a quick interpretation of the photo you like and present that, with a "gift certificate" saying you would like to do a more traditional portrait where you re-create the scene. You can then work from life and also take some of your own photos to develop it further.

    Hope that helps - good luck!
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    If you're reasonably good at drawing things from imagination, you can collect a bunch of different photos of the same subject (the more the better), study them all to figure out the gist of the subject, and then draw your own version, sometimes checking the collection of photos if you forget a particular detail...

    Some great illustrators do that, and it's what I usually try to do if I have to use photo reference for anything (though not nearly as well I'd like yet. Need more practice.) But you have to be pretty proficient at drawing from imagination to pull it off, which can take years of practice and drawing from life to really master...
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    Quote Originally Posted by QueenGwenevere View Post
    If you're reasonably good at drawing things from imagination, you can collect a bunch of different photos of the same subject (the more the better), study them all to figure out the gist of the subject, and then draw your own version, sometimes checking the collection of photos if you forget a particular detail...

    Some great illustrators do that, and it's what I usually try to do if I have to use photo reference for anything (though not nearly as well I'd like yet. Need more practice.) But you have to be pretty proficient at drawing from imagination to pull it off, which can take years of practice and drawing from life to really master...
    This is true - but even then, in a classic portrait approach, by far the easiest thing to do is have the model sit for you. I know it seems harder at first, but if there was a better way people would use it.

    You might pick up a copy of James Gurney's book: Imaginitive Realism; How to Draw and Paint what Doesn't Exist. He does a lot of character work that has to be consistent across many scenes so he sculpts maquettes to maintain consistency. This is standard procedure within the animation and SFX industries as well. So ultimately they're still using reference from life.
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    This is true - but even then, in a classic portrait approach, by far the easiest thing to do is have the model sit for you. I know it seems harder at first, but if there was a better way people would use it.
    Well, YES, of COURSE if you can get live reference that's always best! I KNOW that! That's why I always try to get live reference first... I was talking about situations where it isn't available.

    For instance, if I need to draw the Tower of Pisa or an armadillo by Friday, the odds of being able to fly to Pisa or finding a real armadillo are mighty slim, so I'll try studying photos and other refs and try to work from imagination based on that... You gotta do what you gotta do.

    Maquettes... well, how useful those are depends on how good you are at making maquettes. (I fail at sculpture.) Though I know what you mean, Maxfield Parrish built whole sets as ref. I always understood maquettes were more of a general guide than something to draw from directly, though... I do animation, things like maquettes are like 3D versions of ref sheets - they give you the general idea of what a character looks like from multiple views and show some basic expressions so you can stay consistent, but you still have to draw all the frames from imagination, there's no way you're going to have a ref for all of them.

    Sounds like a cool book, I should look it up. James Gurney does some impressive stuff, indeed.
    Last edited by QueenGwenevere; March 12th, 2010 at 07:25 PM.
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  12. #9
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    Sure, I know you understand those issues - I've seen your stuff. It was more a comment for the OP. But, you have to admit, an armadillo or the Tower of Pisa are different than a portrait.

    I would like to use maquettes more but haven't had the need yet so I'm speaking second hand - I think the main thing they provide is the masses, planes, likeness (not necessarily every expression) and most importantly the lighting.

    I love your charactes BTW.
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    As you know this is not an easy thing to do. But I think this is how I would handle it.

    1. Start with your ref
    2. Cut and paste the things you want changed. For example cut the head, paste it back in place and then rotate it to the position you want it to be.
    3. Google facial expressions
    4. Keeping in mind the skin tone and features of the original ref then draw in the changes you want to make
    5. Carefully paint in the merged areas.
    6. Once you have the ref the way you want it to look then start your painting from scatch.

    This way you will have an original painting from the reference with a whole new expression or pose. Good luck!

    Hope this helps,
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    Dang, that sure sounds a lot harder to me - and in the end I don't think you've learned much about drawing and observation from life.
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  15. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Dang, that sure sounds a lot harder to me - and in the end I don't think you've learned much about drawing and observation from life.
    On the contrary .....

    Using another reference to altar the original reference that you want to change allows the painter to focus intently on the features of the original reference - almost studying it.

    If I take two references and place them side by side and I want to maintain the features of the one on the left but change it a bit I can use the one on the right as a guide.

    By the time I have made the changes to the one on the left I will have a very good understanding of everything from flesh and skin tone to bone structure.

    This method works well if you don't have a live person to pose for you.

    Besides, learning to draw from observation is only one facet of becoming a multi-talanted artist.
    "Creativity emerges only when the imagination is given the freedom it deserves."
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    OK, I tried. Help me out here Queen! Before I get myself in trouble...=)
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