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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    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,

    "Creativity emerges only when the imagination is given the freedom it deserves."
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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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    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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    OK...guess I'm on my own. Since the OP said it was a friend I've been going with the idea they could have them sit for a portrait.

    As far as the working method you describe it just sounds far too difficult and involved, especially if you don't have the experience to know how to manipulate and work well with photos. I'm not trying to argue and frankly, I get tired of saying the same thing, if there was a better way than working from life then the pros would use it.

    As an award winning artist in multiple mediums with a professional career a little over 20 years, I'm aware of what it takes to be a multi-talented artist.

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    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.

    That sounds like a recipe for disaster, frankly. If you rotate someone's head in a photo, you're not going to get anything remotely close to what would happen if someone tilted their head in real life - you're going to end up with an effect like those cheap-looking Flash animations where cut-out bits of photos are jiggled around.

    3. Google facial expressions

    Sounds like another recipe for disaster - the expressions of person A aren't going to look the same as person B, and if this is supposed to be a portrait, not some generic humanoid, borrowing other people's features is not the way to go. You'll end up with Mr. Potato Head.

    Since the next steps are contingent on these first two steps, what you'll end up with is a wildly inaccurate mish-mosh of a reference, which will make the rest of the work inaccurate... (besides which it does sound awfully labor-intensive.)

    (And frankly ANY messing around with photos is more labor-intensive than just getting the guy to pose and drawing him.)

    I still think jeffx's suggestion is the best, if the ultimate goal is indeed a portrait - persuade the guy to sit for a portrait and do it right.

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    Hahahahah OMG...... you two must be the tag-team of the art world. This is an open forum to share ideas. It is to learn and be taught. It is an exchange of information. No one says you have to use it. I shared, end of story.

    "Creativity emerges only when the imagination is given the freedom it deserves."
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    Actually, Razorleaf's suggestions aren't that bad at all given what the OP actually asked us.

    Depending on the position of the person in the photo, rotating the head may very well be possible without major changes in the perspective of the head itself. So long as you're not completely clueless while doing it.

    Looking at photos of expressions on google isn't a bad idea, either. Why in the hell would it be? Obviously his friend has a different face than the people he'll be finding - but as QueenGwenevere pointed out - upping the corners of the mouth to change an expression. It's something everyone does. There's a reason the wrinkles on people's faces as they age often happen in very similar places in very similar ways. It's because - while taking into account the differences in features, people's faces DO follow a lot of the same patterns. Especially when it comes to expressions.

    Just because Razorleaf's suggestion requires a bit of intelligence if you were to attempt it, doesn't mean it's invalid.

    It's just like everything else. If you do it like a moron, it's going to look like a moron did it. If you do it intelligently, then people probably won't be able to tell for certain how you did it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Razorleaf View Post
    Hahahahah OMG...... you two must be the tag-team of the art world. This is an open forum to share ideas. It is to learn and be taught. It is an exchange of information. No one says you have to use it. I shared, end of story.
    Yep - was just sharing as well. End of story.

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    To be honest you can do it if you work for mad magazine and can draw like Mort Drucker or Jack Davis, otherwise it will most likely look like crap.

    Why not just pose the person and shoot the ref yourself? I don't understand the problem here. You use reference or the real person to paint from; using other peoples ref or or turning the head slightly to make it a little different is just lame.

    You could just do it out of your head so that it looks the way you think he looks and hope you are a good enough artist to pull it off but whatever you do it needs unity of execution and intent; so combining things from different stuff that doesn't really fit will give you a result that is a bad as the description of the process.

    Part of being a pro is the length you will go to to get it right; amatuers would rather spend their time inventing byzantine ways of accomplishing things because they lack skill and they think making up new ways to do something will make up for the fact they can't just paint it and be creative with the handling and idea.

    If you don't have the skill to make the photo ref your own when you paint it, you probably don't have the skill to piece it together from things that don't really fit. So back to what has been said before, pose the person and shoot the ref yourself exactly how you want it that would be best, if you can't do that all the other options are less satisfactory and depend on greater skills as an artist.

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  26. #20
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    Damn, dpaint, how do you always manage to explain exactly what I was thinking ten times better than I ever could...

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    It sounds like your trying to start without thinking of any "idea" or story, concept or a design idea of some sort.

    It seems you believe if you do a copy of a picture, you have the exact same product as the photograph, but you don't. You can tell it's a painting or drawing. It has a different feel and look about it. You can develop your drafting skills to the point that it's like a trompe l'oeil painting and is impossible to tell if it's paint or an actual photograph, but that's not most people's aim here. One expression I've heard on here is that your trying to develop an other worldly feel to the picture.

    So learning the basics, the design elements and principles, you can manipulate the picture to how you want. Look for a design book that shows the elements of line, shape, texture, value, color, etc..

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    It sounds like you want to do what CF Payne does. But he's REALLY REALLY GOOD at what he does, and has been perfecting/doing it for years. I'm afraid your best bet would just be to copy the photograph of your friend. You could change the lighting if you wanted to put him in a different scene, but again that means you have to know what you're doing. You need to understand the planes of the face from the photograph, and that takes years of study.

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  31. #23
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    What the picture gives you is a couple of light sources (the window behind him, lamp, etc.. ) Observe where they hit him, and what coulour range are they in. Now you could make him do a handstand, the light sources and their angle remain the same, so all you gotta do is imagine how would they hit a pair of legs in the air..
    Now supose you want to put him in a different setting, say a rock concert.. You'll have rays of light going all over the place making it even easier to visualise how they would hit him, they would be litteraly pointing in where they are hitting him.

    I would suggest researching some lighting theory further, concepts like rim lighting, bounced light, light interacting with different materials, why it happens etc.. Hell if you dabble a bit into the physics of light wouldn't hurt either..
    The point is more of that stuff you understand the easier it will be for you to put any object in any environment made of any material.


    As far as your TinTin friend's mug is concerned. Can you visualise him turned, making a diffrent expression and paint him so from your head?

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    Hi guys!

    I just want to say, thanks for the feedback, ALL comments were taking in, and I have actually taken some notes from you guys, it's actually been a big help - these little snippets of information.

    I never expect the thread to grow so big, so fast! So please excuse me that I can't reply to all of you individually, not now anyway!

    Thanks again.

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