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Thread: Drawing from life or photography

  1. #53
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    There is good practice and there is not so good practice and there is bad practice.
    You are developing a language for yourself to write with plastic means that can represent the experience of the world.
    You are not developing a language to write with plastic means that can represent the experience of looking at photographs.

    I'm talking about developing a LANGUAGE for yourself, not the business of having to use photo reference due to practical limitations after you have attained some mastery of that language.

    Learning chord shapes to play certain favourite tunes is not the same as knowing how to play the guitar and the adoption of such an approach is a diversion from attaining that ability.

    It's not good enough to say 'just play the guitar'.
    That is only something that works for the genius 'naturals'.
    Last edited by Chris Bennett; November 20th, 2011 at 05:46 AM.
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  4. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Just to try to clarify...what I said was drawing from photos will teach you "virtually" nothing about drawing...drawing from life will teach you "virtually" everything about how to draw. I was trying to make the point that the gap between the two is levels of magnitude.
    I agree that drawing from life is perhaps better because you can see the form right in front of you, then your better able to see the form in your mind while you focus drawing on paper.

    BUT, I wonder when this advice started? When photography started and the majority of artist were commissioning photos? Surely the master artist could see a big difference in the two types of reference (life vs photos). The quality of photos back then was pretty bad and I'm sure it was easy to see when comparing from life and the photo's.

    Sometimes I even wonder if they were really talking about content, the "story" of the painting? "Draw from life" sounds a lot like the advice writers get, "Write what you know".

    What I'd really like to see is artists that can draw and paint from life so well, do a painting from life... then take a GOOD picture of the same scene (meaning a professional quality photo) and paint the same picture from it. OR do it the other way around and really point out the differences. Just comparing a photo and a painting from the same scene just doesn't cut it. Doing a few of these (painting/photo vs painting/life from same scene) should be a lot more convincing than just saying "draw from life".
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bowlin View Post
    What I'd really like to see is artists that can draw and paint from life so well, do a painting from life... then take a GOOD picture of the same scene (meaning a professional quality photo) and paint the same picture from it. OR do it the other way around and really point out the differences.
    The thing is, the more experience you have, the less difference there is.

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  7. #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    The thing is, the more experience you have, the less difference there is.
    That's my point, do both and you can see the difference and be able to use both.
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    I've never been all that good at life drawing, by the way. That really doesn't have much bearing on the value of life drawing as an exercise.

    There are things you do for the end product, and there are things you do to help your skills mature. Sometimes, you get both at once. But it's okay if you just get one.
    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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    Quote Originally Posted by Bowlin View Post
    I agree that drawing from life is perhaps better because you can see the form right in front of you, then your better able to see the form in your mind while you focus drawing on paper.

    BUT, I wonder when this advice started? When photography started and the majority of artist were commissioning photos? Surely the master artist could see a big difference in the two types of reference (life vs photos). The quality of photos back then was pretty bad and I'm sure it was easy to see when comparing from life and the photo's.

    Sometimes I even wonder if they were really talking about content, the "story" of the painting? "Draw from life" sounds a lot like the advice writers get, "Write what you know".

    What I'd really like to see is artists that can draw and paint from life so well, do a painting from life... then take a GOOD picture of the same scene (meaning a professional quality photo) and paint the same picture from it. OR do it the other way around and really point out the differences. Just comparing a photo and a painting from the same scene just doesn't cut it. Doing a few of these (painting/photo vs painting/life from same scene) should be a lot more convincing than just saying "draw from life".
    Elwell answers the question exactly right...but I'd like to add a bit. It is definitely true that once you gain a certain level of ability you can work from photos just fine. But, generally you develop that ability working from life, not the other way around. You could actually get pretty good at working from photos without much effort...and still not be able to draw from life, one sees this all the time. But, if you can draw from life pretty well, working from a photo is no problem.

    It's that old saying that if you know what you're doing you can use photos, if you don't know what you're doing it doesn't matter.

    Again I think it is useful to analyze what the best artists are doing? Are they working primarily from life or photos?

    Oh, also I do think an important point is "Just draw" isn't really great advice...you need to "Just draw...effectively and with intent". Those are the people you see making progress in their sketchbooks JFierce. Sadly I see plenty who never develop or evolve over years, even though they seem to put forth the effort...it's just that the effort is misguided.

    And today's analogy: it's sort of like a real woman (or man) vs. internet porn. If you know what you're doing you prefer the real, live thing. But if you don't, if you're nervous, fumbling, unsure then it's scary at first and you might prefer the porn...at least until you gain enough experience and confidence to be able to handle the real thing. The problem is you're not likely to gain that experience and confidence via porn. That isn't to say that internet porn doesn't have its merits, just that one usually prefers the real thing.

    Should I have used another music analogy instead?
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  11. #59
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    Your twisting words. Once again no one has once said don't practice life drawing (at least I'm not). The point is when starting out the most important thing IS to just draw. Thats the point of those sketchbook examples. They start off just drawing it doesn't matter what. They do anatomy studies, or draw photos, draw fruit it doesn't matter. They're just gaining basic competency as everyone must when learning to draw.


    You should do life drawing but as someone else said recommending life is different from forbidding photos.
    Last edited by JFierce; November 20th, 2011 at 08:43 PM.
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    *sigh*...
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  14. #61
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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.
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    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.
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  16. #63
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    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)



    Quote Originally Posted by Bowlin View Post
    What I'd really like to see is artists that can draw and paint from life so well, do a painting from life... then take a GOOD picture of the same scene (meaning a professional quality photo) and paint the same picture from it. OR do it the other way around and really point out the differences. Just comparing a photo and a painting from the same scene just doesn't cut it. Doing a few of these (painting/photo vs painting/life from same scene) should be a lot more convincing than just saying "draw from life".
    The problem here is that most people who can make a 'really good drawing or painting from life' already have the experience to breathe more life into drawing from a photo.

    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.
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  18. #64
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    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.
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  20. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by armando View Post
    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.
    It sounds like what your saying here is that if you know and understand Design well enough, that you can make a very effective piece of art from life or photos. I'll buy that. But that's not really the point their talking about.


    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).
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