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Even when you work from life if you want to make an effective piece of art you've got to make changes, proof: caricature. Caricature is just a super obvious example of what goes on in every piece of art. Can everyone who works from life make an effective caricature? No.
Working from life is no guarantee that you're going to be studying form and rendering it in your drawing, proof: the Angel academy method.
Photography has permanently changed the way we make pictures. Since everything you know about art influences everything you do in it learn as much as you can about it, and draw from every source.
I'm just gonna chime in with a vote for 'draw whatever'.
As some have already pointed out, drawing from life or photo is a non-issue until the artist can understand the difference, which most beginners won't.
The young members of this site are living proof that it doesn't matter, as you'll find an abundance of artists reared up on drawing from photos, and many of them are well on their way in their endeavour.
Here's something I learned in last couple semesters of just simple art foundation classes....
I was rather good at drawing from photos for an outsider and a dabbler, prior to the classes.... and now matter how many photo references I would collect, I could never quite out things together well, to have a polished looking presentation. It was always 'pretty decent for an amateur'. I couldn't draw much from life to ... save my life.
So, I made myself start on a pretty classic approach to art foundation classes.... 2D Design, Drawing from life, Painting from life, figure drawing from life...
All I an say about that is WHOA, what a difference. There is so much more information available to an artist when drawing from life, then from a photo. From a photo, most people who have no experience in drawing from life tend to focus on copying an image.
When you draw from life, or mostly from life, with assistance of photos when not on location to fill in the blanks, you learn how to breathe the life into the image. You draw or paint the record of you entire experience of the subject... rather then just copy an image that the camera captured.
The more one draws from life, the more proficient they get at breathing that entire experience into the image....
My recommendation would be, if the choice is photos vs. no drawing or painting - use photos.
If the choice is Life vs. Photos, go for life.
Every chance you have, work on drawing from life (it's a tad harder then from photos, AFAIK, but you also learn more)
Personally, the more I draw from life, the more I dislike working from photos, I end up feeling somewhat claustrophobic with photos. There are many more things I 'see' during live observation, that I can work into the piece.
It seems that drawing from photos has taught me some nice techniques, bit drawing from life is starting to clue me into some of the not so tangible artistry.
Last edited by Conniekat8; November 21st, 2011 at 12:23 AM.
Is it so bad to use the right tool for the right job? Photos are good for some things. Life is good for other things. Practice from both, think about what you're doing and why and apply as needed.
I'm still surprised that no one ever just paints a life/painting vs photo/painting of the same scene to point out the differences (plus post the photo they used).
This who don't know how to paint from life couldn't do justice to a painting from life, and those who have experience are likely to 'improve' upon a photo. I'm one of those people who could do a lit from photos, and would make a mess drawing from life.... then I learned that the observational skill drawing from life is different.
The crux of the issue that most people are tying to point out is that LEARNING from photos is not a good thing to overuse at the expense of life drawing and painting.
Connie, well how about looking at it this way... A LOT of people on this site are VERY supportive of Loomis's books. His figure drawing book that has recently been reprinted, "Figure Drawing for All It's Worth", he says that if you have the means to draw the figure from life, by all means do so. But he stresses that it's just as valid to draw from photos and construct figures from imagination (page 18). The whole point of the book is to draw the figures in the book. He says to try and get the meaning behind the drawing rather than just copying line for line and tone for tone. And this is the book that many pro's have learned from.
The point that I was making (I'm not entirely certain if you read all of what I wrote), and I gather a lot of other people here are trying to get across is that any one method or one book or one technique will leave the person with very one sided (lopsided) skills.
Lopsided skills is something I am personally trying to remedy right now. While I do make money from my artsy craftsy skills, it has certainly not made me a well rounded artist.
Solely learning drawing from other people's photos and illustrations = bad
Learning to take your own photos = good
Drawing from your own photos = good too
Drawing from life = good
Drawing a lot = very good
Drawing a lot from a variety of sources including other photos master copies, life etc.. = very good
If you believe that drawing is the graphic appreciation of looking at life, and the communication of this, then drawing from photos is by definition not drawing. This would mean that pros don't need to look at photos when makining an illustration, because the photo would be able to tell them very little of anything they didn't already know. People can adhere to this idea strictly or loosely.
To me drawing is the graphic understanding of phenomena, used for communication. The transfer of experience onto paper right then and there from life is an important idea, but the way I see it we are constantly immersed in life so it's not that big of a deal to draw from a photo. Some phenomena are easier to study in photos: shattering glass, whirlpools, fast action, smoke, explosions, lightning, micro organisms, bugs. You could say it would be better to freeze a lightning bolt and study it from nature but that's unrealistic.
If you want to know the difference between being there looking at something and drawing from a photo what you should do is to draw from memory. Pick a spot, take it's photo, then start memorizing, go home and draw what you looked at from memory, then compare it to the photo, then make corrections to the memory drawing using the photo you took. note: the last step wasn't done here
All we've done here is gone in a circle. Suprised no one has yet mentioned that there is also the opinion that the student shouldnt start from life or photos but from master drawings, art itself. Charles Bargue.
Good drawing is an imaginative activity.
Drawing from life encourages the imaginative faculty because no answers are supplied.
Drawing from photographs discourages the imaginative activity because of answers supplied by serendipidous solutions of surface pattern.
The truth of this is demonstrated by great artists (Degas is one example) advocating that poorer photographs are better for drawing from.
From Gegarin's point of view
we're taught a number of methods in my classes. they tell us they are all tools we can use for this and that. The more tools you have, better off you are.
Just draw please.
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It's providing a solution and your imagination goes out the window. It so easily becomes a form of 'freehand tracing'.
This is why it is not good for beginners - and even experienced artists have to fight against this happening.
'Not making it look like it was done from a photo' is the prime concern of those using reference. That tells you everything you need to know about the non-benifits of working from photography regarding learning how to draw.
From Gegarin's point of view
Again I would like to reitterate this advice for anyone trying to figure out what they should be working on (for the simple reason that we all have different goals and are inspired by different artists): search out and define (make a list) for your own self, the artists and movements that inspire you. Research their working methodology...see what all the people you dig have in common...and then try to follow that lead. It may be Syd Mead, Mark Rothko, Roger Dean, Wayne Thiebaud, Clyde Aspevig, Andy Goldsworthy, Sparth, James Gurney, Hajime Sorayama, Henry Yan, Geiger, Moebius...whoever, etc. That is the only way I know of to discover what path you should really be taking and where you should be putting your creative and technical efforts. It doesn't make any sense to buy a drum kit and study Neil Peart when you really want to be Jeff Beck.
The real wisdom and value of Loomis is found in his "Opening and Closing Chats". He stresses that the artist must be an individul, make individual statements and interpretations, and express his/her own ideas, experiences and point of view. Unfortunately it is almost opposite of how his books are used by most people. I'll try to pull out a few of the gems that are often missed.
FDAW, pg 16: "...I would prefer, if it were possible, to subordinate my own viewpoint, or technical approach, and leave the reader as free as possible for individual decision and self-expression." [pretty much the opposite of "copy out of my book"]
FDAW, pg 17: "You could make no more fatal error than to attempt to duplicate, for the sake of duplication alone, either my work or the work of any other individual." [it gets better in that same paragraph]
FDAW, pg 18: "If you study my drawings in the light of a model posing for you, rather than thinking of them as something to be duplicated line for line and tone for tone, I think you will in the end derive greater benefit....Try to get the meaning behind the drawing much more than the drawing itself."
SD (Successful Drawing), pg, 13: "For those who have an understanding of nature's laws, plus vision, the greatest teacher is nature itself."
I do see you mentioned that same line about getting the meaning behind the drawing. Anyway, I just always encourage people to READ Loomis more than just copy his mannequins.
As for the Loomis quotes yeah they're right that you don't just copy. The point of the book is learning the construction method because as loomis says as well if you don't have knowledge of the underlying structure you won't make it even in a 1 in 1000 chance as an artist pretty much. The thing is when reading old artists and assuming their viewpoint is all it takes is a single line to change it completely. Most old artists didn't even live around the time of great photos or resources so of course they don't have an opinion regardless and even if they did. It's an opinion not some mandate.
Also here this will be the end all be all of the discussion for Loomis and his policy with drawing photos.
"If you can take photos or have access to them, try your skill in drawing from them, adding what idealization you think should be there.
Page 18 Figure drawing for all it's worth.
Edit: Good lord that came out much more rudely than I thought. Rewording that and apologizing.
Last edited by JFierce; November 22nd, 2011 at 03:08 PM.
Really...just no longer know what to say..."uncle"? You win? You're right? I'm wrong? Where's a link to your work? Do you get your ass kicked every day or just occasionally? Or maybe just, what the fuck is your problem?
Edit: Ah...yeah, it did.
So yeah, maybe that is what people do, just seems like I see a lot of people copying Loomis (and Bridgman) without trying to understand it and apply his process. I've done both and I know one approach leads to increased awareness and the other leads to, well, not very much. Anyway, maybe slightly different interpretations of the same basic message.
Just blindly draw them and you won't take away anything from it. Same thing with general anatomy. I'm still learning anatomy (as most are) and the more you understand why and how things connect it makes it much easier. Especially true when looking at something like Brigman lol.
Just drawing them over and over doesn't teach you much. It's about observation and linking why something is and how it works. (Then applying it of course)
Haven't done some studies in awhile been busy with stuff at home but tempted to take up some more with all this talk of them.
Last edited by Bowlin; November 22nd, 2011 at 05:38 PM.
Bowlin: The opinion "start by copying drawings" was not stressed by anyone here. Unless you mean papageo's question "If drawing from photos is a waste of time, why is drawing from master copies good?"
(Edit: this statement is not directed to Chris Bennett.)
Whoops almost left this part out. About this copying Loomis and Bridgman stuff. What does Bridgman usually mean by this type of line? If you can't answer your opinion doesn't matter to me.
Last edited by armando; November 22nd, 2011 at 10:58 PM.
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