Pencil value rendering from imagination.

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  1. #1
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    Lightbulb Pencil value rendering from imagination.

    Hiya guys, I've run into another issue that I haven't been able to solve on my own so I'm hoping for some input. Sorry in advance for the length.

    Somewhere on here I read a quote that said, "You must learn to draw from observation before you can draw from imagination." I've been thinking about this and wondering just how true it is. I enjoy drawing from observation, both photo and life, for gestures and quick sketches and practicing this and that, but there is one area of drawing that I've found I don't like drawing from observation; a fully rendered drawing. I've done a few of these and at first I was in love with the idea, but that quickly changed as a couple drawbacks presented themselves. First, while doing them I am often thinking about how many gestures or studies or sketches I could have done in the hours and hours spent on this ONE drawing. How many more new things could I have learned with that hard to come by drawing time? Secondly, in the case of photoreference, which this almost always is for me, I don't feel that I'm creating anything, just transfering someone else's art (the photographer) into a different medium. It leaves me very unfulfilled.

    Now, if you'll follow me over to the idea of drawing from imagination; the idea of doing full renderings here really does excite me. I have an excellent imagination and am always sketching scenes that really speak to me and capture an emotion or the essence of something. I'm getting to the level where I feel ready to take these scenes from sketches and line drawings and make them into fully rendered works.

    This is where I'm hitting a snag.. How to accurately render the values of a scene without reference? Sure, you can find some reference online, and it is sometimes possible to shoot your own but thus far I'm having very little success with this, especially since I have such a precise visual of what I want. What I find online is always from the wrong viewpoint or the wrong angles or the lighting is inconsistant due to pulling from multiple images. Shooting my own is often impractical or impossible

    So far I'm doing the best I can just visualizing the planes and thinking my way through it, but there are so many variables.. Different materials (leather, fabric, glass, wood, stone, fur..) of different colors (natural values?) at different angles..etc etc. How do you render a glass of scotch sitting on a dark wood table in a dark room backlit by a roaring fire? See what I'm saying?

    So here are the answers I'm considering so far..

    A. You really do have to do lots of these renderings from observation/reference until you've built up the experience figure this stuff out when working from imagination.

    B. This is far more advanced than I realized and I should hold off until later and seriously consider option A.

    C. Accept the fact that you don't yet have the skills and experience to pull it off like you imagine it but you should still keep at it and do your best and not be hard on yourself with the results.

    D. ?

    So, thanks for reading and thanks for your suggestions and hopefully this thread will be helpful to others out there with the same problems both now and in the future.

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    With simple lighting setups, you can figure it out if you understand the forms. More complex lighting setups are going to require some reference. If you can't photograph your subjects, try making a model and photographing that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mizunodave View Post

    A. You really do have to do lots of these renderings from observation/reference until you've built up the experience figure this stuff out when working from imagination.

    B. This is far more advanced than I realized and I should hold off until later and seriously consider option A.

    C. Accept the fact that you don't yet have the skills and experience to pull it off like you imagine it but you should still keep at it and do your best and not be hard on yourself with the results.

    D. ?
    D. All of the above.


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    All of the above, and you might get more out of it if you do some more finished drawings from life instead of strictly from photos.

    This shouldn't be hard to arrange, just set up some still lives with any old objects and a desk lamp. (No excuses, either. I went through a year of cobbling together still life subjects from minimal personal belongings in a barren dorm room, there's always something you can scrape together even if it seems like there isn't.)

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    There's NO way you can draw from imagination unless you've done TONS of fully rendered drawings from life, and paintings if you delve into that. Believe me, I've been doing tons of rendered stuff from life and photos (most photos im afraid ) and the more you do them the better your imaginary stuff gets...because you have memory to draw on of light, form, etc...and I still have a TON of life drawing to go before I even get a satisfying imaginary creature or environment. Especially environments....

    Unless you have amazing photographic memory, it's going to take a loooooooooong time before you can get good imaginary stuff. That seems to be the general consensus around here and I agree with it.

    And another thing, what you imagine in your head isn't visual. You can map out a really awesome monster and environment and try to memorize it while you have it captured in your head, but the second you hit paper, everything goes to shit if you don't have the experience and knowledge in life drawing. And hell, even from reference, when you're starting out its pretty damn hard to make something look realistic. What you have in your imagination is a great guideline for starting a piece, but you have to know a great deal of knowledge to actually complete it in a satisfying manner.

    I remember about three months ago before I started my first painting I was like HAH I've seen the guys on YouTube do it! It's easy! You just draw something out, slap a bit of dark color on this side and light color on the other! It's that easy!

    *begins first painting*

    ...........

    BLAHBLAHBLAH
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    One of the things you could work on with the finished paintings or renders is your speed. Working from life you should be able to finish a painting in three hours or less. And just for a benchmark I mean a large painting, 24x30 inches. Its possible and people do it all the time.

    I watched Everett Raymond Kinstler finish a 30x24 inch portrait from life in 2 hours, same with Burt Silverman, a 24x20 inch portrait in 2 hours from the live model. And these were finished paintings not loose sketches.

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    Everything they've said, plus a bit more. As far as setting things up and finding good reference online or whatever, don't be afraid to pull from different things; you may not find exactly what you want, but you can pretty much always find something useful. Being that you're starting off on the imaginative side, make sure you don't get too complicated: simply (hopefully single) light sources, non-complicated gestures, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    I watched Everett Raymond Kinstler finish a 30x24 inch portrait from life in 2 hours, same with Burt Silverman, a 24x20 inch portrait in 2 hours from the live model. And these were finished paintings not loose sketches.
    OH MY FREAKING GAWD. Pls tell me this is not true.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mizunodave View Post
    I enjoy drawing from observation, both photo and life, for gestures and quick sketches and practicing this and that, ...
    I think there is a misconception here, drawing from observation is drawing from life - not from photos. Very different processes and learning outcomes.

    Quote Originally Posted by mizunodave View Post
    First, while doing them I am often thinking about how many gestures or studies or sketches I could have done in the hours and hours spent on this ONE drawing. How many more new things could I have learned with that hard to come by drawing time?
    You won't learn very many new things if you are not doing these kinds of studies, gestures and fully rendered drawings from life. It is proven over and over.

    Quote Originally Posted by mizunodave View Post
    Secondly, in the case of photoreference, which this almost always is for me, I don't feel that I'm creating anything, just transfering someone else's art (the photographer) into a different medium. It leaves me very unfulfilled.
    This is true and the real problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by mizunodave View Post
    Now, if you'll follow me over to the idea of drawing from imagination; the idea of doing full renderings here really does excite me. I have an excellent imagination and am always sketching scenes that really speak to me and capture an emotion or the essence of something. I'm getting to the level where I feel ready to take these scenes from sketches and line drawings and make them into fully rendered works.
    Excellent - this is what motivates most of us - so do your imagination and ideas the service of learning your craft so that your visions have full impact.

    Quote Originally Posted by mizunodave View Post
    This is where I'm hitting a snag.. How to accurately render the values of a scene without reference? Sure, you can find some reference online, and it is sometimes possible to shoot your own but thus far I'm having very little success with this, especially since I have such a precise visual of what I want.
    Of course - that snag is just reality - if you want a high degree of realism you need to set up your subject in the appropriate lighting and study it. The shortcut or workaround to this is stylization which can allow for an infinite variety of simplification at the expense of realism. Comics are a good example.

    Quote Originally Posted by mizunodave View Post
    ... but there are so many variables.. Different materials (leather, fabric, glass, wood, stone, fur..) of different colors (natural values?) at different angles..etc etc. How do you render a glass of scotch sitting on a dark wood table in a dark room backlit by a roaring fire? See what I'm saying?
    Variables. Exactly. Set up a glass of scotch sitting on a dark wood table backlit by a fire. Study it from a few angles...paint it a few times. Next time you'll know or can make a realistic enough rendering for it to work.


    Quote Originally Posted by mizunodave View Post
    So here are the answers I'm considering so far..

    A. You really do have to do lots of these renderings from observation/reference until you've built up the experience figure this stuff out when working from imagination.

    B. This is far more advanced than I realized and I should hold off until later and seriously consider option A.

    C. Accept the fact that you don't yet have the skills and experience to pull it off like you imagine it but you should still keep at it and do your best and not be hard on yourself with the results.

    D. ?

    So, thanks for reading and thanks for your suggestions and hopefully this thread will be helpful to others out there with the same problems both now and in the future.
    A) Yes - and then you will probably still need reference.

    B) Absolutely...but don't hold off - get in there and make it happen.

    C) If I understand your meaning, no - you should not keep working from imagination without developing a solid understanding of the fundamentals. Just realize you need to work hard, practice and study to build the skills you need to make your work as strong as you can.

    Good topic - I hope it helps too!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xeon_OND View Post
    OH MY FREAKING GAWD. Pls tell me this is not true.
    It is true. And when talking about speed, it's actually a discussion about economy and decisions, not how quickly they make their marks.

    A few well placed brushstrokes can say more than hours spent blending and rendering.

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    And it's okay that it's true, 'cause if somebody somewhere can do it, maybe you can too!
    (um, sorry, my 5 year old's bed-time story this evening was "Green Eggs and Ham".)
    About found reference always being a little bit off, your understanding of anatomy and perspective can help make the difference. In fact, it's a good exercise to try to envision a gesture drawing reference from a completely different point of view, like looking down from atop a ladder or up from down in a man-hole. Steve Lieber once told me that at Kubert's school they were expected to develop that kind of facility with the live model in life drawing classes.

    "Three's so little room for error."--Elwell
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xeon_OND View Post
    OH MY FREAKING GAWD. Pls tell me this is not true.
    Apparently you haven't heard the tale of the Chinese Sumi-e Master?..

    One day, a tourist, having recently been impressed by the elegance and beauty of the Master's work enters his studio..."How much for you to paint me a beautiful Koi?"..."500 yuan" the Master replies..."Wonderful! When shall I return to pick it up?"..."You may stay"...and the Master takes a clean sheet of paper...prepares his brush...and with a few quick, deft motions an elegant, beautiful koi is captured. Smiling, he hands the sheet to the astonished tourist who gasps, "I'm not paying you 500 yuan for that! That only took you five minutes!"..."No"...the Master says..."That took me a lifetime."

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Apparently you haven't heard the tale of the Chinese Sumi-e Master?..

    One day, a tourist, having recently been impressed by the elegance and beauty of the Master's work enters his studio..."How much for you to paint me a beautiful Koi?"..."500 yuan" the Master replies..."Wonderful! When shall I return to pick it up?"..."You may stay"...and the Master takes a clean sheet of paper...prepares his brush...and with a few quick, deft motions an elegant, beautiful koi is captured. Smiling, he hands the sheet to the astonished tourist who gasps, "I'm not paying you 500 yuan for that! That only took you five minutes!"..."No"...the Master says..."That took me a lifetime."
    LOL, familiar story! Though the version I heard was of some western artist (can't remember the name), but the concept is exactly the same.

    I really wish I can steal the souls of Everett Raymond Kinstler and Burt Silverman so that I can paint like them without putting in a lifetime of effort. That would be awesome! Oh yeah, I wanna steal the soul of Michelangelo too. If I can, that is.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xeon_OND View Post
    LOL, familiar story! Though the version I heard was of some western artist (can't remember the name), but the concept is exactly the same.

    I really wish I can steal the souls of Everett Raymond Kinstler and Burt Silverman so that I can paint like them without putting in a lifetime of effort. That would be awesome! Oh yeah, I wanna steal the soul of Michelangelo too. If I can, that is.
    Then you aspire to be the ultimate biter?

    "Everything must serve the idea. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and clear. Just what is required. No extra images. To me this is a universal principle of art. Saying as much as possible with a minimum of means."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xeon_OND View Post
    Oh yeah, I wanna steal the soul of Michelangelo too.
    You'd be sorry...


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    One of the things you could work on with the finished paintings or renders is your speed. Working from life you should be able to finish a painting in three hours or less. And just for a benchmark I mean a large painting, 24x30 inches. Its possible and people do it all the time. I watched Everett Raymond Kinstler finish a 30x24 inch portrait from life in 2 hours, same with Burt Silverman, a 24x20 inch portrait in 2 hours from the live model. And these were finished paintings not loose sketches.


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    Quote Originally Posted by mizunodave
    First, while doing them I am often thinking about how many gestures or studies or sketches I could have done in the hours and hours spent on this ONE drawing.
    Its easy to think this way, however you should remind yourself that studies are like studying for any other subject, and drawing from life/photos are like exams - you can study all you want, but you'll never really know how good you are until you apply it in an exam.


    Quote Originally Posted by Xeon_OND View Post
    LOL, familiar story! Though the version I heard was of some western artist (can't remember the name), but the concept is exactly the same.
    Yeah me too, I think it was Picasso? Doesn't really matter because everything sounds cooler when its converted into chinese proverb form.

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    yeah - the Chinese Sumi-e Master works best because the execution of a single masterpiece is fast...it just takes a lifetime to get there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by OmenSpirits View Post
    Then you aspire to be the ultimate biter?
    Nah, I aspire to be the ultimate sucker. Just a fantasy, though, and I think most artists wannabes have this sort of fantasy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xeon_OND View Post
    Nah, I aspire to be the ultimate sucker. Just a fantasy, though, and I think most artists wannabes have this sort of fantasy.
    In other contexts, that statement could earn you QUITE the bit of money.

    I know a few...AGENTS, of the sort. That can hook you right up with...CLIENTS. May be some stressed placed on your feet, roughed up knees, some cold nights and car exhaust, a little sweat, and tight clothes might be a prerequist, but that's up to the..AGENT.

    They're harsh, but I PROMISE, you will become the ultimate SUCKER!



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    A few things I would add is that you have the wrong mindset when drawing from reference and probably from life do. You're not trying to COPY what you see, you're INTERPRETING it. You're translating it using all the skills, the biggest being observation, you possess as an artist.

    For instance when a camera takes a picture it's interpreting the scene based on how a camera records things. Its different from how your eye records things and your art/drawing should be how you interpret the scene.

    As for drawing from your imagination. Every time you draw, you are drawing from memory. The only difference is how recent and clear those visual memories are. It could be the second it takes you from looking at your reference or model to making a mark on your paper or it could be a year and you're remembering a certain way a girl stood on a beach. It can even be 10 years of memories all mashed together in a type of gestalt that translated into how you know what an arm looks like in a certain position.

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    Are you SURE that the art/artist you admire that paint from imagination AREN'T using reference of some kind? How many tuts and painting videos might be leaving the reference out? Statistically, how many illustrators use reference and how often?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bowlin View Post
    Are you SURE that the art/artist you admire that paint from imagination AREN'T using reference of some kind? How many tuts and painting videos might be leaving the reference out? Statistically, how many illustrators use reference and how often?
    EXACTLY. And if you lump representational artists in there with illustrators it is every single one of them I've ever read about or talked to.

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    Thanks for all the replies, guys, you never let me down.

    I've never done any still life drawings, mostly because the term always made me think of boring bowls of fruit, but this thread has convinced me to give it a go. After some brainstorming I made a list of items to draw that I don't find boring (string instruments, chess pieces, whiskey and wine glasses/bottles, books, few other items.) Between my own possessions and a trip to the antique/flea market store I have a nice collection of items to draw. Even after just one attempt I immediately recognized what you were saying about how much more instructive drawing from life is than drawing from a photo, especially in regard to the subject of this thread, lighting. Something about knowing exactly where the light source is and seeing the big picture makes everything so much clearer and easier to comprehend and learn from.

    So thanks again, just another small step for a novice but I feel like I'm getting on the road that will take me to the place I described in my OP.

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    Maybe these will give you an idea or two...first two are Alan Magee...the man can paint a box...the other is Michael Grimaldi, represented by the Pence Gallery in San Francisco.

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