Learning from photographic reference vs. learning from other drawings (symbols)?

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    Question Learning from photographic reference vs. learning from other drawings (symbols)?

    I've been wondering. Some people say that one should learn from photographic reference. But some people say that you should learn from the symbols people draw (like eyes, mouths, trees, etc) and the way they draw these. But the people who learn from photographic reference often scoff at this.

    What's so bad about learning to draw by means of the symbols experienced artists draw?
    What's so much better about using photographic reference?
    Is it such an unwise decision to learn from symbols?

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    It's a false alternative. Neither of your choices will do you good. They are both based on copying.

    Learn from observing real life (supplemented with photos for things you can't get easily) and practicing structural drawing based on these observations. You must work through understanding, not copying.

    Base your studies on the foundation of knowledge of perspective, anatomy and lighting laws, as well as other artists' working methods - and I mean not reproducing their accidental symbols, but reproducing the WHY of the markings they make.

    You cannot use photographic reference unless you already have a skill in observation for structural drawing. You can't read or imitate another artist's style unless you already have a skill in observation for structural drawing, either; in that case it is merely applied to figuring out the artist's method instead of the real object. So without such foundation, neither of your "alternatives" will work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by robbit10 View Post
    I've been wondering. Some people say that one should learn from photographic reference. But some people say that you should learn from the symbols people draw (like eyes, mouths, trees, etc) and the way they draw these. But the people who learn from photographic reference often scoff at this.

    What's so bad about learning to draw by means of the symbols experienced artists draw?
    If you just copy symbols naively, you start to run into problems as soon as you want to do something different than what the other artist has done. At that point you have to reverse-engineer the symbol and figure out how it would work in this new situation. Like kids who can draw their favourite manga character perfectly from the front but make terrible mistakes when drawing them in profile or 3/4 view.

    While if you work on making your own symbols based on your understanding of the 3D world, you're much less likely to have to reinvent the wheel every single time you change something.

    Working from life or photos has the advantage of you being able to use a greater range of reference to help you. If you depended on other artists for your knowledge of what walruses looked like, you'd be screwed.

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    I think you should use as many resources as possible. Nothing beats drawing from life, but doing either copying of other artists or copying of photos exclusively will result in a limited skill set.

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    Learn from everything.


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    Quote Originally Posted by robbit10 View Post
    What's so bad about learning to draw by means of the symbols experienced artists draw?
    Because you end of with a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy, the artistic equivalent of a game of telephone. You're not drawing, you're making hieroglyphics. And you could end up being this guy.


    Tristan Elwell
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    I don't wanna derail the thread, but it seems Rob has actually put some effort into improvement over the years.

    Learning from photographic reference vs. learning from other drawings (symbols)?

    There's clearly still some issues and it's still the signature Leifeild style, but just looking at the cover I think his characters are starting to look more like human beings compared to the nightmarish stuff he did 20 years ago. Not that I care enough to read any of it, but still. I like being fair.

    Learning from photographic reference vs. learning from other drawings (symbols)? Learning from photographic reference vs. learning from other drawings (symbols)? Learning from photographic reference vs. learning from other drawings (symbols)?

    Last edited by Psychotime; October 9th, 2011 at 07:47 PM.
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    That's a really badly composed cover.

    "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 Elwell View Post
    And you could end up being this guy.
    Don't be that guy.

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    Having seen some of the interior of Hawk & Dove #1, he was bringing his extra-special A-game for that cover. The interiors, he starts to slip back into old habits.

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    That new cover's horrible.
    "Where're their fuckin' necks?!?!?"

    "Three's so little room for error."--Elwell
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    Ohgod I love Robby-boy so much. Look at them bodies. I actually thought the first cover was an old one and the second would be the improved versions.
    I was wrong.

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    Also, why not check these guys too?

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    I get impression the artist didn't try the upper body pose himself in front of a mirror. I also get impression that there is little or no quality control at DC Comics.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie D View Post
    I get impression the artist didn't try the upper body pose himself in front of a mirror. I also get impression that there is little or no quality control at DC Comics.
    i guess you don't read comics much.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cro-magnon View Post
    i guess you don't read comics much.

    Good guess.

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    I use to love Liefelds art as a kid in the early 90's...and I copied it a lot too. It's amazing that it was only a few months ago that I found out he is considered one of the worst comic book artists' of all time

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    I honestly don't even get this line of X-titles to be honest.

    Also he still can't draw feet or backgrounds.

    Last edited by Arshes Nei; October 10th, 2011 at 10:45 AM.
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  25. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Psychotime View Post
    I think his characters are starting to look more like human beings compared to the nightmarish stuff he did 20 years ago.
    I dunno, both of them look pretty nightmarish to me. This comic book style has been copied from copies from copies from copies from someone's quirky style, and it shows. It has zero relation to observation of anything, just imitating other guys' styles.

    Besides... they are STARTING to look like human beings after 20 years? I'd expect a smart artist to progress faster than that...

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  27. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by cro-magnon View Post
    i guess you don't read comics much.
    I guess you think comics are all about DC / Marvel superheroes.

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  29. #20
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    no need to snap, chap. we're talking about a guy who's largely worked in the Marvel/DC sphere,

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  30. #21
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    I don't get how this turned into another Liefeld thread but you guys should stop hating.
    Yeah, he might not be the best artist out there but he managed to turn something he truly loves into his profession and for that he has my respect.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tugelbend View Post
    I don't get how this turned into another Liefeld thread but you guys should stop hating.
    Yeah, he might not be the best artist out there but he managed to turn something he truly loves into his profession and for that he has my respect.
    I can't respect a guy that blatantly stole artworks from other artists or didn't pay artists working under him.

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  32. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arshes Nei View Post
    I can't respect a guy that blatantly stole artworks from other artists or didn't pay artists working under him.
    I didn't know about that. Oh well

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    Quote Originally Posted by arenhaus View Post
    Besides... they are STARTING to look like human beings after 20 years? I'd expect a smart artist to progress faster than that...
    You got a point there.

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