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  1. #1
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    More helpful advice

    When browsing the art discussions threads for nuggets of gold, I've noticed that when people ask for help on a certain topic the advice in the majority of the cases is "draw from life" and slightly extended versions of the same "advice". This advice is pretty much amounts to: "Go figure it out yourself"

    I have no doubt what-so-ever that drawing from reference (preferably live) is the best way to go. The problem is that the people asking are probably doing that but don't know what to look for.

    What they are really asking is:
    - What do I need to see (not just look at) and include in my painting to make it look more so or so? What do I need to look for, pay attention to? (For example painting the pores of the skin on a portrait, including hues of blue, green, yellow and not just pinkish, ...)
    - Once I've taken notice of these things, how do I best go about painting them, what is the technique? (eg.How do I go about painting the translucency of skin?)

    I cannot imagine that "Draw from life" is the best advice that can be given. It is, however, the easiest and that is why I see almost copy pasted versions of this kind of answer in every thread where people are asking for advice.

    To be actually helpful you would need to either go into depth on the matter, see some examples of people's work, comment what they could add, have done wrong, make some examples of your own, etc. etc.
    This would of course take a lot more time and effort. And maybe it would be better to send these kinds of questions to the community mentoring boards.
    But you could also refer to a tutorial you once read or a book that was really helpful when you were doing studies on the same matter.

    If studying from life is the only advice around, why are there art schools? Are they just a provider of models and tell students to figure it out for themselves?
    Are these advise-givers scared that starting artists will "overtake" them and thus add to the competition in the field? Are they just lazy? Or are they resentful that they had to spend a long time figuring out what it was they were missing and are unwilling to make the learning process easier for others?

    I'm not saying there is 1 mysteriously eluding brush or technique that would solve the issue, I'm just saying advice could be more helpful.

    There, I'm done ranting now.


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    Well, I think part of the problem is that a lot of the "draw from life" advice concentrates on actual long term improvement instead of just making one picture look okay, and a lot of time when people actually go further (like for example, doing a redline for anatomy to give pointers) the beginner just basically copies the redline, but because they don't actually understand the reasons that went to the redline, the image still looks off or the person learns nothing deeper.

    People in here are not afraid to share books that they found helpful, but there's also a limit of how much holding hands can go through internet, like with the "painting translucency". Especially if the person doesn't know how to use his/her medium, it's really hard to try to give throughout advice in a single comment, without even knowing how the artist is painting (which is partially why there's teachers in schools) and if they have no idea what skin translucency even looks like or how it works (which you get best from drawing/studying real life) you can't give "do this and you succeed" advice.
    And like in this thread: http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=220004 if none of the tutorials the artist already found were absolutely no help, it's unlikely there's some magical One Tutorial To Rule Them All that suddenly would teach him to succeed in painting skin. If he needs to learn how to paint realistic skin, the best way to go is to study realism and paint from it.

    Though I can't say that people constantly trying to find some sort of magical shortcut to skip life drawing (or constantly asking questions about things that are most helped by life drawing and Loomis) wouldn't be aggravating in the long run, especially since the artists who are giving the advice here are generally the ones who did life drawing and learned from that. Same goes for the constant "halp I have no motivation" threads.

    EDIT: Also..
    Are these advise-givers scared that starting artists will "overtake" them and thus add to the competition in the field? Are they just lazy? Or are they resentful that they had to spend a long time figuring out what it was they were missing and are unwilling to make the learning process easier for others?
    If it were so, we wouldn't be even giving ANY advice here. People here help how they can (not everyone is as fluent with words or experienced enough or has time to give deep advice) because they want to help. No one is paying us here to give advice.
    Last edited by TinyBird; May 3rd, 2011 at 07:15 AM.
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  6. #3
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    It is true that if proper help is given it still depends on how it is received. (ie. your redlining example) But by not, going with the example, redlining the picture you are already excluding the possibility that the person asking will learn anything. By actually making the effort of doing the redlining you run the risk of your help falling on deaf ears so to say. And I understand the reluctance to do it.

    So would a more helpful and realistic response to these kinds of threads be along the lines of: "Look for a mentor" or "Post an example in the critique center and I'll have a look at it" ?

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    EDIT: Also..
    Quote:
    Are these advise-givers scared that starting artists will "overtake" them and thus add to the competition in the field? Are they just lazy? Or are they resentful that they had to spend a long time figuring out what it was they were missing and are unwilling to make the learning process easier for others?
    If it were so, we wouldn't be even giving ANY advice here. People here help how they can (not everyone is as fluent with words or experienced enough or has time to give deep advice) because they want to help. No one is paying us here to give advice.
    I might have let some of my own resentment slip in there.

    Sometimes I just feel like a blind man looking for the opening in a wall by repeatedly walking into the wall head first. And when I ask "where's the opening", people don't say "right" or "left", but rather say "keep on banging your head, you'll get there".
    Know what I mean?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kweckduck View Post
    I might have let some of my own resentment slip in there.

    Sometimes I just feel like a blind man looking for the opening in a wall by repeatedly walking into the wall head first. And when I ask "where's the opening", people don't say "right" or "left", but rather say "keep on banging your head, you'll get there".
    Know what I mean?
    Just to complete your analogy for you - once you find the hole and climb through, there will be another wall with another hole you need to find. The previous set of instructions you followed will now be useless - ergo, it makes more sense to learn how to find the holes by yourself. You are right, however - "Keep banging, you'll get there." is not advice: it is just a lazy way to tell someone they need improvement.

    The quality of crits on this site has a lot of room for improvement, I feel. There are a handful of users whose critique I care for, the rest just fill up my sketchbook with pointless one liners. And boring ones at that. It would have been far more interesting if they just called me names. Or jumbled up the order of their words at least.

    Which is why I take a certain degree of pride in my crits on here. They are very rare, but they are very good.
    Brendan Noeth


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    Yep... I can totally understand what you mean. Being a traditional oil painter, I whole-heartedly agree that you need to draw/paint from life. If you want to have realistic looking images, it's essential. Here's the reasons that I do it:

    Photographs: Lots of people use photographs. I use photographs. However, photographs have a lot of problems in terms of realistic painting (A lot more can be found on the internet about this). The problems that I see for photographs are: 1) perspective issues for vertical shapes, 2) shadows are flattened (lose subtlety of color, 3) If the shadows are correct, the light areas are not (dynamic range issue), 4) everything is in focus, and 5) colors are not quite correct. Compound this with the effect of seeing the picture on photographic paper (which is been altered due to different printer/paper settings) or the monitor (which may or may not be calibrated correctly), you'll have some issues.

    When you work from "life" for a while, you are able see the flaws and fix them. However, "working from life" is, as you say, not as simple as it sounds. It's incredibly difficult. The way that I interpret things is that a lot of people want a "fast" solution. Something that they can get onto and then see an immediate improvement. When I first started working from life, there were sooo many issues with my stuff that I had a problem. I first had to get my drawing correct. Then I had to understand values. Then I had to understand edges. Then color... then... etc.

    So, yes, I agree that "working from life" is sometimes the easy answer, but unfortunately to fully explain what it means to work from life would takes books and books and books of information.

    In my mind, a lot of beginners, if they are doing realistic work, don't have the basic drawing skills down. They're worried about having a great image, etc... and don't have some of the basics to get to that point. As you know, it's a long road and there are no fast solutions.

    Dougie

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  12. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kweckduck View Post
    And when I ask "where's the opening", people don't say "right" or "left", but rather say "keep on banging your head, you'll get there".
    I think the point of that is to help you figure out for yourself that you're on the wrong direction to begin with. It helps a great deal when your perception isn't contained by instruction of others; rather, if you learn for yourself that banging your head is going to give you brain damage. It's a tremendous skill to learn for yourself to stop and think, 'Okay, how do I work around this wall'?

    You'll then endeavor on your own path of problem solving to find the door. You'll build staircases for yourself, perhaps a ladder or two and you'll realize that you've just developed the cognitive skills to solve the problem completely organically. Then there will be another wall to climb. The difference is now instead of having someone given you a pathway to the first door, you now have the mental skills you need to solve the next problem, and the next, and the next.

    So when someone says 'draw from life,' and then you say, 'What do I look for? Be more specific?' The fact that you've drawn from life has improved your observational skills. You will understand how to adjust your perception to figure out what to look for.

    Once you've done that, you won't even have to ask questions. You just analyse and build your art around it. You'll be able to SEE so much clearer that a lot of the questions we ask become more obvious over time.

    And heck, a little research would go a long way too.
    Last edited by Beeston; May 3rd, 2011 at 08:11 AM. Reason: Confused You're and Your. I am ashamed.


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  14. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brendan N View Post
    There are a handful of users whose critique I care for, the rest just fill up my sketchbook with pointless one liners.
    Critique? In a Sketchbook? Surely you jest.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kweckduck View Post
    So would a more helpful and realistic response to these kinds of threads be along the lines of: "Look for a mentor" or "Post an example in the critique center and I'll have a look at it" ?
    I think so, at least the Critique Center suggestion. Though sometimes there's people in the Art Discussion board that make a thread about how they can't improve in X but when asked, refuse to post any of their art. And it's surprisingly frequent (though I can understand that it can be scary and embarrassing, but they've made a thread already so they might just as well go all the way).

    Or the help seeker could take a little bit of initiative, like you mentioned books, for example the artist with a problem in doing X could ask for them like "your favorite books on painting X" instead of "X is my problem, solve it for me".
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    I understand your frustration for sure. I don't post often on the forums though I stalk it mercilessly; mostly out of fear or frustration with my work and constant concern I'm making stupid errors. I'm sure the feelings are just out of ignorance and that posting and having it looked at would help fix them, but looking for cookie-cutter guidance can give you some fuzzies and make you feel like you know what you're doing now. Everyone has once read the general tutorials and thread advice catered to everyone and not your individual needs as a creator. The only way to get valuable and useful advice is to post your work in the Critique Center to get advice on what you need. You just need to push past the fear of possible rejection.
    I do agree however. I know to draw from life; I do it constantly both in observing my friends and inanimate objects, however comparing my work over the last year I don't appear to have improved (this may be subjective). I don't feel I have a good base and no one seems willing to tell me what kinds of things I should study aside from just "draw what you see, hurrdurr" because that's easier said than done when you don't know how to see what the rest can see.

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    Actually, Zintallia... you hit the nail on the head. One of the hardest parts of teaching someone how to draw/paint realistically is teaching them how to see. Once they know what they are looking at, then they understand how to fix it.

    That's why good critiques are so important.

    dougie

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    Well what more can be said when so many people asking for help ask it in the most vague way possible with no examples of their work so anyone answering will have no clue what their current skill level is at? Not to mention people who come on here and say "I drew a cup from life yesterday but nothing happened, HELP ME."

    I love helping people and I would like to think I give good advice but the person asking for help has got to show some sort of initiative before people are really willing or informed enough to help them.

    Thruthfully I see a LOT of good advice around here and it doesn't amount to just DRAW FROM LIFE, but I understand why the answer is given so much.

    - What do I need to see (not just look at) and include in my painting to make it look more so or so? What do I need to look for, pay attention to? (For example painting the pores of the skin on a portrait, including hues of blue, green, yellow and not just pinkish, ...)
    - Once I've taken notice of these things, how do I best go about painting them, what is the technique? (eg.How do I go about painting the translucency of skin?)
    Those questions do NOT have a universal answer and it depends entirely on your setup, what you are drawing, lighting conditions, what the model looks like, ect ect. People say "draw from life" because with experience you will learn and teach yourself what you are weak in and what you need to continue looking for in a model or object or whatever it is that you are drawing.

    This is why there are art schools, so that a professor can watch you while you are painting a particular subject and guide you and give you advice on both common approaches that can be used with many subjects and solutions to the particular problem in front of you. It's not impossible to teach yourself these things but having good instruction can expedite the process.

    I dunno, maybe I am just mean but I feel like it's entirely my job to get better. If people give me advice then that's great; you guys are amazing. If not then I got some drawing to do. However, I do try to take what I have learned and feed it back to others to help make the struggle a bit easier.

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    The advice givers often say 'draw from life' because the questioners aren't drawing from life. And they need to in order to get where they want to go. Telling them 'this is how you paint skin' won't help because they won't even know what real skin looks like unless they study it in real life. It's not a cop-out answer, it's what they need to do to start really improving. Studying from photos won't get them there.

    After that actually follow the advice and start painting from life, then they can post their work and the instructors can give more specific advice or tell them what to do next to continue improving.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TinyBird View Post
    Critique? In a Sketchbook? Surely you jest.

    If you close your eyes, lodge you legs behind your neck, stand on your hands whilst kissing the small of your spine as you recite the three magic words in all the languages found in the southern hemisphere, you can get some too!
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  24. #14
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    People critique in my sketchbook all the time. ???

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    Many good replies and so hard to form a good reply. Some people seemed to miss the point though. My problem is not the drawing from life, my problem is that it seems an automated response to people asking questions about techniques.

    @Tinybird: I have to admit that I agree. Many people asking for help arent willing to go the distance.

    @JJacks: True, there is plenty of good advice around, I dont want to say there isn't. And yes, when people are too general the explenation would span books. My beef here is why not tell people to make their request more specific? Tell them to post in the critique center, etc. Just saying "draw from life" seems like a brush-off. When the advice giver says it, he means assumably means to say a lot more than the reader can interpret.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JJacks View Post
    People critique in my sketchbook all the time. ???
    I dunno, I guess I just don't do enough real life studies or things that'd be properly or easily critiqueable (is that a word even?) since 9 out of 10 comments in mine seem to be "good jorb, keep it up". And the one actually helpful I haven't really understood properly yet.
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    I should probably keep my mouth shut (or keyboard still) but...since I'm one of the main people you seem to be referring to I'll offer my observations.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kweckduck View Post
    I have no doubt what-so-ever that drawing from reference (preferably live) is the best way to go. The problem is that the people asking are probably doing that but don't know what to look for.
    OK, so what is the problem? They don't know what to look for because they simply haven't made the effort yet and lack the experience. They also expect it to be easy and it isn't. And no, they are probably not doing that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kweckduck View Post
    What they are really asking is:
    - What do I need to see (not just look at) and include in my painting to make it look more so or so? What do I need to look for, pay attention to? (For example painting the pores of the skin on a portrait, including hues of blue, green, yellow and not just pinkish, ...)
    - Once I've taken notice of these things, how do I best go about painting them, what is the technique? (eg.How do I go about painting the translucency of skin?)
    No, what they're really usually asking is, "Why can't I do this the first time I've ever tried?" "I want to paint a really complex scene full of warriors fighting a ________ but I don't know how. Can you tell me?" "I don't know how to paint a girl's skin in Photoshop, what's the secret?"

    And the typical response to sharing that they have to learn to draw is that it is boring. I'm generally done at that point. Except in cases where I think other people, often not even involved in the discussion may benefit.

    Or the typical response is "I can't work from life"...or any other various excuses. Believe me, I made them too...we all have. That is why we try to share what helped us.

    And by the way, no one should be painting until they have mastered, or become very proficient in drawing.

    The simple truth is most people requesting advice and critique are so far out in front of themselves that they are not even aware of it. They lack the vocabulary or willingness to look into these things themselves so it becomes very difficult to offer any advice that will help. And I for one do not believe in helping people that don't help themselves.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kweckduck View Post
    I cannot imagine that "Draw from life" is the best advice that can be given.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kweckduck View Post
    "I have no doubt what-so-ever that drawing from reference (preferably live) is the best way to go."
    So which is it?

    Every representational artist worth their weight has worked from life. If it is good enough for them it is good enough for me.

    Every book by said artists offering guidance and insight says the same thing.

    Every teacher and mentor I've had, that knew what they were up to, said the same thing.

    Every school, atelier and system that helps develop representational artists has a similar approach.

    So why wouldn't the beginning artist follow this path? Or need to hear any other advice.

    To be honest I think there is far TOO much elaboration here and not enough "Learn how to draw".

    There is basically an idea that everyone has to learn "art" for themselves. You can point out a few thing, read a few things but in the end the only people who are going to "learn it" are those that "seek it". Music is like that too...you can have lessons and instruction but in the end the student has to learn it themselves.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kweckduck View Post
    To be actually helpful you would need to either go into depth on the matter, see some examples of people's work, comment what they could add, have done wrong, make some examples of your own, etc. etc.
    This would of course take a lot more time and effort. And maybe it would be better to send these kinds of questions to the community mentoring boards.
    But you could also refer to a tutorial you once read or a book that was really helpful when you were doing studies on the same matter.
    You bet, I could provide a paypal link in my signature and they could pay my teaching rates. THAT would be helpful! Books, resource and tutorials are recommended ALL THE TIME.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kweckduck View Post
    If studying from life is the only advice around, why are there art schools? Are they just a provider of models and tell students to figure it out for themselves?
    Art schools exist to make money...I know, surprise! As soon as CA starts paying me a decent wage I'll start doing more paintovers and redlines. Until then I guess I'll just be lazy and keep giving the same advice. Which is the best advice I ever got and why I pass it on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kweckduck View Post
    Are these advise-givers scared that starting artists will "overtake" them and thus add to the competition in the field? Are they just lazy? Or are they resentful that they had to spend a long time figuring out what it was they were missing and are unwilling to make the learning process easier for others?
    This is an incredibly offensive paragraph, but I think born out of ignorance rather than malice so I'll try to shed some light on your comments.
    As far as being worried about being "overtaken"? Please, why do you think some of us offer the very best advice we can? I can't speak for anyone else but, I think I come close when I say many of us here have some sort of "teaching" gene which drives us to want to help others and share insight and information...actually for the very opposite reason you imply, rather than making the learning process more difficult we want to help others avoid the very pitfalls and false starts we encountered.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kweckduck View Post
    I'm not saying there is 1 mysteriously eluding brush or technique that would solve the issue, I'm just saying advice could be more helpful.

    There, I'm done ranting now.
    And I'm just saying it can't. Whether someone follows the advice or not is up to them.

    From the vantage point of a lifetime of experience in various art mediums, techniques and professions, plus the shared experience and insight of peers, it is very easy to see what someone needs to be doing to improve. Rarely do they understand this or follow the advice offered but that does not change the nature of the advice. Some will eventually get it and others won't. Those that won't just won't no matter what you do to help.

    If you give a person a fish you feed them for a day, teach a person to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.

    There, I'm done pointing out misconceptions. I am glad you brought this up and I hope my response offered some insight.

    Edit: I didn't read through all the responses...maybe this will help:
    Quote Originally Posted by Kweckduck View Post
    Sometimes I just feel like a blind man looking for the opening in a wall by repeatedly walking into the wall head first. And when I ask "where's the opening", people don't say "right" or "left", but rather say "keep on banging your head, you'll get there".
    Know what I mean?
    Yeah, we've all been there...the problem with your analogy is that people ARE saying, "It's over here a little farther to the right/left/whatever"...but the reply is actually, "No thanks, I don't want to go that far, I'd rather just keep banging my head against the wall right here where I am." Plus I really like the comment Brendan N made about it being a series of walls...right on the money.
    Last edited by JeffX99; May 3rd, 2011 at 04:36 PM.
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    http://painting.about.com/od/product...t_and_Fear.htm

    A few quotes from that book come to mind (though all of it may just apply to you).

    ”The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars.” Art and Fear, page 5.

    ”To all viewers but yourself, what matters is the product: the finished artwork. To you, and you along, what matters is the process.” Art and Fear, page 5.

    ”The artist’s life is frustrating not because the passage is slow, but because he imagines it to be fast.” Art and Fear, page 17.

    I think one of the things in that book that made me think is how to take advice and what I should be looking for on my own. Crits are good, and the crits at any place you get them at vary. The problem is however, people put impressions on each other - without understanding.

    No matter how much you tell me or the next person "you practice a lot" for example: I'm not you - I don't know your allotment of what is "a lot" In the same vein when I tell you to practice more, you won't understand how much is enough until 1. You give up 2. You do it till you feel better or decide the progress is going in the right direction.

    Trying not to repeat what others have said though - but I echo their statements I agree that not all crits are great, but people have a hard time understanding why one can't help them out with "Draw from Life" if one doesn't want to do it enough times to understand why it's important.

    But hey, there's this thread that was a roundtable and maybe you can find some of the reasons why. Oddly enough it was a sticky in the Critiques center. http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=26636

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  31. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zantillia View Post
    I do agree however. I know to draw from life; I do it constantly both in observing my friends and inanimate objects, however comparing my work over the last year I don't appear to have improved (this may be subjective). I don't feel I have a good base and no one seems willing to tell me what kinds of things I should study aside from just "draw what you see, hurrdurr" because that's easier said than done when you don't know how to see what the rest can see.
    Here's a good example Zantillia, you mention you do it constantly but haven't improved and don't know what to be studying or looking for. Without seeing your work I/we have no idea what you are missing. So the only response I can offer is to study the fundamentals: composition, accurate drawing, value and edges. That makes up the majority of what you have to learn. Color isn't even in there yet but would probably be next. I repeat those things all the time.

    Now it is up to you (or anyone esle) to look up those terms, try to see them in other works, try to understand them and develop them in your own work, etc.

    In addition I often recommend the book, "Drawing Essentials" by Deborah Rockman. It is the single most comprehensive book on learning to draw I've seen. Again, it is up to the individual if they are motivated enough to even look at it, purchase/borrow it and then read it the 10 times it will require.

    (thanks for bumping the Critique thread btw!).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kweckduck View Post
    My beef here is why not tell people to make their request more specific? Tell them to post in the critique center, etc.
    So you would rather we trade "Draw from life." as the standard response and best advice ever, for "Go to the Critique Center and post." Oddly enough, people already do that, but regardless it's the same "easy answer" you're complaining about. ManlyBrian and JeffX99 said what I would.

    The only thing I could add would be that you seem to be projecting quite a bit onto the beginner artists that ask these base, vague questions. I think you are giving them too much credit. They don't know what specific questions to ask because they are beginners. If they don't know the question to ask, that means they most certainly aren't ready for the in-depth answer. You don't tell someone who's drawing stick figures about the golden section, do you? It's only confusing. That's why the best universal advise is "Draw from life." at all levels. Easy to understand, easy to do, easy to create a path to learning more complex ideas at your own speed.

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  34. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kweckduck View Post
    Many good replies and so hard to form a good reply. Some people seemed to miss the point though. My problem is not the drawing from life, my problem is that it seems an automated response to people asking questions about techniques.
    Okay. Well, that response comes from unpaid volunteers who choose to provide some help to the unending masses of search-disabled artists who all want a personalized answer to the same questions people have been asking since art forums first started. It is just as frustrating to be faced with the 300th person who wants you to give them their own personal art textbook in four paragraphs or less as it is to be an artist who doesn't know what they're doing. Maybe more, because in 5 years the artist's skills will have improved but the questions people ask will still be the same.

    I mean, you can test this out. Start giving what advice you can. I bet that in a few thousand forum posts "draw from life" will be the least offensive response you'll feel like giving people.

    "But then why don't you guys all quit?" you may ask. I have no valid answer for you. I'm starting to think that helping people on the Net is a form of personality disorder.
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    There is also something else I want to add on.

    Critiques are great but you need to learn how often you need them and from who. If I don't have the same goals, I will have a completely different idea of where you should head. That's the danger of asking strangers online vs peers who understand you. The sketchbook threads are NOT critiques for every piece, but you MIGHT or MAY get critiques or comments.

    The sketchbook threads are a public "let's continue the long journey through progress". You don't have to post a sketchbook, but you can if you feel that's what helps you.

    Too often people are "over critiqued" meaning that every drawing one does that person feels the need to run over for a critique because they're second guessing themselves too much. This doesn't mean one doesn't need help but you do not need help for every brain fart, doodle and piece you make. It's usually better let's say if you did get critiques. It might be for a single piece, then come back later (months) with another one. A good thing is to post your previous thread with the critiques for that piece along with the current one.

    That gives you something of an idea of where to go (comparison). But even you need to learn where that is.

    Really art isn't some team effort but one person's journey. You set the rules of how you want to win. Those factors change if you're looking for a career. Your personal enjoyment may vary.
    Last edited by Arshes Nei; May 3rd, 2011 at 07:45 PM.

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    The thing is, we've all been noobs. We know exactly what you're up to because we did it too.

    Trying to make pictures WAY above your skill level. Drawing too much from your imagination. Drawing too slavishly from photo reference (and struggling to make your picture idea conform to whatever crappy reference you've got). I don't mean you in particular, OP, but...well, everybody goes through it. (Almost everybody. There may be some goody two-shoes European atelier students who eat their spinach).

    Maybe we're trying to reach back and yell at our younger selves: just shut up and do the damn exercises and you'll get where you want be!

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    Wow...last four replies were so much better said than I could. Should all be quoted for emphasis really.

    Quote Originally Posted by vineris View Post
    I mean, you can test this out. Start giving what advice you can. I bet that in a few thousand forum posts "draw from life" will be the least offensive response you'll feel like giving people.
    Or this beauty from Harold Speed (stolen from sone one's signature):

    "... and every obstacle should at first be put in the
    way of the aspiring artist, as it is only those you
    cannot discourage who are worth encouraging"


    Harold Speed

    That is some tough love right there it is!
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    There have been some really good responses in here.

    Just to add another facet to the discussion; I think the frustration OP feels comes from the belief that the pat answer "draw from life" is meant as the answer, not just part of the answer.

    The point people are making when saying "draw from life" isn't that it's the only thing you should do; but drawing from life is the activity that holds the lowest risk of backsliding or time wasting--you probably can't get worse at drawing if you keep drawing from life, and you'll probably get much better.

    As Jeff says, there are always fundamentals. You can study proportion, 2D figures, 3D figures, value, and on and on without drawing from life. But drawing from life is one of the best ways to practice the fundamentals.

    Perhaps people should seek out a compact list of "fundamentals" to study; then, drawing from life, attempt to master them. The secret is that virtually nobody ever fully masters all the fundamentals--but we can do some damn fine work along the way.
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    Hey JeffX99, I was wondering when you were going to join the discussion. You are indeed one of the evil spreaders of the infamous sentence.

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    OK, so what is the problem? They don't know what to look for because they simply haven't made the effort yet and lack the experience. They also expect it to be easy and it isn't. And no, they are probably not doing that.

    ...
    Is the problem here then that it is assumed that none of these askers draw from life or are otherwise unwilling to work hard and the ones that do just get caught in the crossfire?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    The simple truth is most people requesting advice and critique are so far out in front of themselves that they are not even aware of it. They lack the vocabulary or willingness to look into these things themselves so it becomes very difficult to offer any advice that will help. And I for one do not believe in helping people that don't help themselves.
    I think this is called "setting high goals" and probably having misguided ideas of how to get there.


    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    So which is it?
    (I seem to be unable, or too lazy to figure out how to quote your quote)
    Anyway, it's both.
    Yes: Drawing from life is the reference from which everything has been drawn and is therefor the purest and correctest of all sources to learn from.
    No: It isn't the best advice (it's still good, just not the best) to give to starting artists, because they don't know what you are saying. This is when you get the reaction "I drew a bloody teacup and nothing happened".

    I suppose it depends on the context. If someone asks "How do I draw metal textures on a coca cola can under a spotlight?" You could say "Well put one on your desk under a spotlight and have a look at how it reflects light."
    Which is basically the "draw from life"-line.

    When somebody asks "How do I draw metal textures?", which is very vague, the answer of "draw from life" just isn't that helpful. Because you mean to say "take a metal surface and put it in similar conditions to which you want to draw it" while it is received as "I have to draw my pencil sharpener again??"

    This gets even harder when the subject matter gets even more complex and has infinite ways of being drawn in different light etc. and just aren't easy situations to recreate at home.

    So instead why not say something along the lines of "Well, what kind of metal texture are you looking to paint? Is it rusted brown or shiny polished? What is the light source? Where is it coming from? Is there more than one? Show me what you are trying to do and I will point out what you should do differently." And if you are too lazy to engage in such a way, why not tell them to post examples in the crit center and have other people deal with it?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Every representational artist worth their weight has worked from life. If it is good enough for them it is good enough for me.

    Every book by said artists offering guidance and insight says the same thing.

    Every teacher and mentor I've had, that knew what they were up to, said the same thing.

    Every school, atelier and system that helps develop representational artists has a similar approach.
    Once again, I'm not arguing the value of live drawing.



    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Art schools exist to make money...I know, surprise! As soon as CA starts paying me a decent wage I'll start doing more paintovers and redlines. Until then I guess I'll just be lazy and keep giving the same advice. Which is the best advice I ever got and why I pass it on.
    Yes, this forum/website is a goldmine of talent and beginning artists see this and are hoping for a glimpse of knowledge that will help them advance and are looking to get some freebies. For sure. But if you are willing to take the time to write any kind of advice, why not make it as helpful as possible?

    This is of course what happens (or should happen) in the crit center and I'm all for that!

    Quote Originally Posted by Vineris
    Okay. Well, that response comes from unpaid volunteers who choose to provide some help to the unending masses of search-disabled artists who all want a personalized answer to the same questions people have been asking since art forums first started. It is just as frustrating to be faced with the 300th person who wants you to give them their own personal art textbook in four paragraphs or less as it is to be an artist who doesn't know what they're doing. Maybe more, because in 5 years the artist's skills will have improved but the questions people ask will still be the same.

    I mean, you can test this out. Start giving what advice you can. I bet that in a few thousand forum posts "draw from life" will be the least offensive response you'll feel like giving people.

    "But then why don't you guys all quit?" you may ask. I have no valid answer for you. I'm starting to think that helping people on the Net is a form of personality disorder.
    These last 2 quotes kind of confirm what I've been saying about the "draw from life"-line being used as a brush-off.

    I have come to understand why it is used in such a way. In day-to-day life I have tried to offer people advice just to notice they ignore it anyway, so I learned to keep my mouth shut and let them make their mistakes in the hope that they would learn the same lesson eventually.
    But it just doesn't seem fair to throw a meaty bone to a herbivore.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mirana
    So you would rather we trade "Draw from life." as the standard response and best advice ever, for "Go to the Critique Center and post." Oddly enough, people already do that, but regardless it's the same "easy answer" you're complaining about. ManlyBrian and JeffX99 said what I would.
    Actually, yes. It would be more helpful. It weeds out the people that are not willing to do the work and gives the people that are willing something concrete to work with.

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    This is an incredibly offensive paragraph, but I think born out of ignorance rather than malice so I'll try to shed some light on your comments.
    As far as being worried about being "overtaken"? Please, why do you think some of us offer the very best advice we can? I can't speak for anyone else but, I think I come close when I say many of us here have some sort of "teaching" gene which drives us to want to help others and share insight and information...actually for the very opposite reason you imply, rather than making the learning process more difficult we want to help others avoid the very pitfalls and false starts we encountered.
    I realize it was offensive and disrespectful towards the people that are willing to offer help without wanting anything in return. I let my frustration get the better of me. So my apologies for that part.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kweckduck View Post
    When somebody asks "How do I draw metal textures?", which is very vague, the answer of "draw from life" just isn't that helpful.
    This gets even harder when the subject matter gets even more complex and has infinite ways of being drawn in different light etc. and just aren't easy situations to recreate at home.
    But it also becomes even harder to try to explain through the web. Because the artist has to understand how the complex metal object is constructed and what the texture is like (and possibly how it's formed). And it doesn't differ from just drawing. Like someone asked in the Art Discussion board, "how do you draw rubble" and there's no other basic answer than "you draw it like everything else." Understand how it's constructed and how it works, which is pretty much how you draw everything else.
    And even if these things are hard to re-create at home, at least the artist him/herself can try to find such place (junkyard, old rusted car, old streets, shipyards), which is something that can't be done through the web.

    So instead why not say something along the lines of "Well, what kind of metal texture are you looking to paint? Is it rusted brown or shiny polished? What is the light source? Where is it coming from? Is there more than one? Show me what you are trying to do and I will point out what you should do differently." And if you are too lazy to engage in such a way, why not tell them to post examples in the crit center and have other people deal with it?
    Is it REALLY that hard to expect the beginner to do this on their own? I can understand that as beginners they may have problems expressing themselves, but it's not too much to expect from them that they have a little inkling of what they want and actually specify it.
    If they're too lazy to engage in such simple way, do they really even want help?
    We shouldn't have to drag answers out of the person to help them, and trust me that people do ask clarifications if it's impossible to answer without such.
    Last edited by TinyBird; May 4th, 2011 at 03:49 AM.
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    Yes and no.
    No, it's a seemingly simple thing to state EXACTLY what you want to know. But like you said, beginners have problems articulating what it is they actually want to know. So in that sence: yes it is hard. By asking something general they aren't just asking "tell me what I need to know", they are also saying "tell me what I need to ask". They are kind of relying on your bigger pool of experience to point things out.

    This is more demanding on the advice-giver, but the alternative is to have that same person return with a similar general question. By saying "don't tell me, show me" and asking questions about details it will change their way of thinking and approaching the problem.

    JeffX99 gave the example of teaching someone how to fish versus giving them a fish. A good analogy, the only thing missing was that once you've told them "see, this is how you fish" you neglect to give them a fishing rod or even to show them how to make one of their own. You don't tell them what kind of wood to use or how to make a string or what bait to use. Which means they will come back with the same question anyway.
    Last edited by Kweckduck; May 4th, 2011 at 04:28 AM. Reason: grammar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kweckduck View Post
    JeffX99 gave the example of teaching someone how to fish versus giving them a fish. A good analogy, the only thing missing was that once you've told them "see, this is how you fish" you neglect to give them a fishing rod or even to show them how to make one of their own. You don't tell them what kind of wood to use or how to make a string or what bait to use. Which means they will come back with the same question anyway.
    If you teach someone to fish, it's very likely the student will at least see a fishing rod, so if they can't at least try to make their own, no matter how crude, they probably deserve to die from fish related hunger.
    Wood, strings and seeing what sort of bait works best are all things that the student can and has to experiment and learn on their own, because honestly, different stuff works for different people. Maybe they end up liking spear fishing. If you tell them everything from the start, what need does the student to experiment and learn? At best you might want to tell them what to look for in a good fishing rod.
    And if they are faced with the problem that their pine fishing rod explodes when they dip it in the water, at least they have a specific question they can start looking answers to.
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    Hahaha, Ok, the problem with analogies is that it's not always clear what element is supposed to be what. I meant the fishing rod to be the thinking process of how to approach a drawing/painting problem.

    Btw, have we moved on to discussing to who the brush-off should be applied?

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