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  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    Learning about photography will teach you more about composition than working from life ever will.
    Gotta disagree with half that statement very strongly there Tristan.

    Getting the knack of compostion by drawing from photos teaches you a great deal... about making compositions redolent of photographic compositional serendipity.
    I don't knock it - I use it myself a great deal.

    But it doesn't teach you about composition.
    And neither does drawing from life.
    Learning the principles of composition teaches you about composition.

    Just as learning the to play a musical instrument doesn't teach you about composing music.
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  4. #32
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    Notice, I said learning about photography, not drawing from photographs. And the best way to learn about something is to do it. Looking at the world through a viewfinder is a totally different experience than just looking through your eyes, and forces you to be aware of the relationship of elements not only to each other, but to the boundaries of the picture as well. It also teaches you the deficiencies of received observation, and how much you often have to manipulate an image to produce something artistic. I agree with Chris that the only way to really learn composition is to learn the principles of composition. But, it's much easier for many beginners to put those principles into action in photography, where composition is one of the only controllable variables, and there aren't the additional technical issues specific to drawing (like making this look like they actually look). I think every foundation program should include photography, along with drawing, painting, design, and sculpture.

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  6. #33
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    Chris is right on the money about learning composition by studying and practicing composition. You can do it quite nicely with cut up bits of paper, rocks and sticks, etc. And you're right Tristan, learning "about" photography, or composing with a camera is one valid method. But were far afield from

    Quote Originally Posted by Dahlium View Post
    What is best to start out with for a beginner? Drawing from photographs or still life?
    When you draw or paint from photos, you're limited and bound to an already
    2D image, with borders and set spatial relationships, not to mention reduced value, color and distortions caused by depth of field. When working from life you have depth perception, ability to move either the subject, the light or yourself to shift composition in subtle but often important ways. You become far more attuned, more quickly, to fundamental concepts.

    One is better than the other, especially when learning to see and translate.

    Again I would recommend to the OP, and anyone else confused or uncertain, do your homework. Make a list of the artists you admire and read about their methods and background. Discover who inspired them, where they were trained, what media they use, what do they have in common? After all they are the ones who inspire you...their working methods and advice is what you should pay attention to.
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  8. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Drawing from photos will teach you virtually nothing about drawing, seeing and composing...drawing from life will teach you virtually everything about it.

    See this is the attitude I don't like. You can say which is "better" yes. Drawing from life is overall better. But when you make statements like you learn nothing from drawing a photo that is just wrong.

    For instance one of the beginners biggest issues is anatomy. How often are you going to find a live subject that is bulging with muscles who will stand still for you whenever you feel like drawing. You won't. But yet observing pictures, learning how the muscles of the body layout at various angles WILL teach you things and with the internet you can find boundless sources to take from. I see people's sketchbooks they're copying/studying the books illustrations to learn, they take still frames of athlete's, body builders, various subjects they could never find in real life to pose for them. Whether it's extremely old individuals or little babies, malnourished people or fat sumo's.

    Saying drawing from a photo has no merits at all is wrong. It doesn't have all the benefits of from life but there is plenty one can learn.

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    OK. I'm wrong. Just show me a list of all the great artists that have developed their drawing ability working from photos. Or that recommend learning to draw from them. Photos are great resources for all kinds of reasons...they just aren't very good for learning how to draw and paint. I can't help it if you don't like it.

    And in your examples that sounds more like learning anatomy rather than how to see and draw...those are different things.
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  11. #36
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    IMHO, each has their own benefits.

    Drawing or painting from life will help you with realism. It gives you a virtually unlimited amount of detail, and allows you to understand a subject from multiple angles. Studying from life helps you develop your own style, and potentially helps you stumble across new ideas that no one has ever come up with before. (assuming any are left, amirite?)

    Drawing or from (good) photography, and doing master studies, can help you learn ways to effectively use color, composition, and storytelling elements. Overall studying good art should give you an understanding of what makes good art effective.
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  12. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post

    And in your examples that sounds more like learning anatomy rather than how to see and draw...those are different things.
    Your acting like learning anatomy isn't important when learning how to draw. Look around the sketchbook threads one of the most frequented comments given to them is work on your anatomy.

  13. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    OK. I'm wrong. Just show me a list of all the great artists that have developed their drawing ability working from photos. Or that recommend learning to draw from them. Photos are great resources for all kinds of reasons...they just aren't very good for learning how to draw and paint. I can't help it if you don't like it.

    And in your examples that sounds more like learning anatomy rather than how to see and draw...those are different things.
    Well to be fair I'm far from great.. but I use both. I draw from real objects, observe the world and draw nude models for a few hours once a week. I use my mirror a lot. But I also use a heavy amount of photo reference.

    You are correct to say that drawing from photos does not nearly help your perception of 3D space as well as just looking at 3D space. I feel like most of this is observance and less about the motor skills of drawing though? Like if I just stare at something long enough and try to apply the principles of it to a painting it starts to click even though I'm looking at a beer glass and applying it to an alchemist's glass flask.

    I think overall for a very VERY beginner it's important to JUST draw and make it interesting. As long as you have the mindset to expand your knowledge and learn (instead of trying to gain endless praise) you will learn. I think drawing from life at first might bore and frustrate many beginners? To others I try to break it down into "Look at this object and try to see the shapes that build it."

    Sorry sort of rambling. These are all valid points.
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  14. #39
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    The thing I like the most about reading about different artists is how much they contradict each other. Compare Washington Allston's Lectures on Art to Belcaro(a book that represented a certain popular artist's ideas).Yet, for the most part, the core ideas remain the same. It's usually agreed that art is derived from observation of life. Observing life doesn't require a pencil.
    Beginner's questions tend to superficiality. "Draw from life or photos?" What a loaded question, and a limited one. Only a fool would want to dumb it down to the lowest common denominator.
    Facts are facts. They aren't justified by authorities. But according to Neal Adams: "You will learn more by tracing than anything else." http://www.nealadams.com/recommend.html

    This argument is tedious. I think Elwell alredy shut it down with "I think every foundation program should include photography, along with drawing, painting, design, and sculpture." That's the real answer. A student should learn as much as they can about art.
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  16. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by JFierce View Post

    Saying drawing from a photo has no merits at all is wrong. It doesn't have all the benefits of from life but there is plenty one can learn.
    Jeff's not saying that. No one's saying that.

    People learn to fly using a simulator for all sorts of paractical reasons: Cost, flexibility and safety. But any pilot will tell you it ain't like flying and does not teach you what only real flying can ultimately teach.

    If it was safe and money wasn't an object EVERY pilot would learn to fly right from the start by taking off in an actual aircraft and leave the simulators to gather dust.

    The same goes for working from life and working from photographs: The first is real flying, the second is simulation of flying and is adopted for exactly the same reasons (the safety element being irrelevant of course! - although some students... )
    Last edited by Chris Bennett; November 19th, 2011 at 07:28 PM.
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  18. #41
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    Well frankly he may not have intended it but he did say it. He said literally drawing from photos doesn't teach you to draw. When 'learning to draw' is a very broad spectrum.

    Art also isn't as decisive as "Oh I learn this this and this then I move on to that". If I'm past stickfigures and trying to learn something as simple as contour line figure drawings I need to learn anatomy. Drawing from references helps that.

    The point I'm simply making is like Elwell said why not work from anything you want. Saying that you don't learn anything from drawing from photos is wrong. Plain as that and going into some trip that "unless you name drop an artist that learned from photos your point is wrong" is stupid. I COULD go through the archives of sketchbooks for 5 star amazing artists then dragging out studies they made based on photographs but that would be a waste of time.

    Instead simply pointing out that you can learn anatomy from photos you can learn interesting perspective you possibly can't achieve in real life. There are things you can learn. Do both. Focus more so on Life Drawings but do whatever. The most important thing for a beginner is literally just drawing. Flat out.

  19. #42
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    I think the frome of mind of the learning artist is as important as whether or not he is working from life or from a photo. If you, as an artist, set out simply to copy what you see, you learn little more by working from life than you do from a photo -- you learn simply to sopy your visual field(which is more challenging from life, but equally fails to reward if there is no purpose)

    I try to make sure that, whatever reference I use, I am thinking about the form, the structure, so that it becomes a part of my visual library which I can use when working from imagination. One can do this from photographs as well as from life.

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    What do you thing about what Robert Chang from CgSociety says?

    I'll say this--too often I see people blindly throwing around the advice that you need to do a lot of life drawing, gesture drawing..etc from life, but they don't stop and think for a moment the level of skill and knowledge of the person they're giving this advice to. This is the difference between good teaching and bad teaching. A good teachers will cater to the needs of the specific person's actual level of skill and knowledge, and will not throw things at him that he cannot handle or benefit from at his current level.

    If you cannot look at any photo or drawing from a figure/anatomy book or someone else's artwork and make a convincing copy of it without glaring inaccuracies and mistakes, then you have not attained the basics of being able to draw/paint accurately. Until you have attained the ability to make convincing copies, which is something all beginners must learn, you wouldn't benefit from doing life drawing and gestures from real life nearly as much as you think you will, because you can barely observe and analyze and break down what you're seeing with any level competence. Think about it--if you can't even draw accurately while observing something 2-dimensional and completely still, without any time limit, then how the hell can you even begin to tackle something that is 3-dimensional, moves, and can only hold a pose for a very short amount of time--sometimes only seconds?

    If you must push for doing gestures, then use photo references or other people's drawings you admire first. Try capturing the main essence and feel of the poses quickly, and if you find that very difficult, then forget about doing it from real life for now--you're not ready for that yet. I think once you're able to do expressive gestures of still image references quickly and to your satisfaction, that's when you tackle real life.

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  22. #44
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    JFierce;

    You are possibly confusing learning to draw with 'using reference'.
    When drawing you are translating a haptic experience into a two dimensional expressive code.
    You don't want to be learning how to do that using something that is already two dimensional.
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  24. #45
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    Hm. Robert Chang is this guy? I'd say dude would benefit from some life drawing.
    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).

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