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Thread: Rendering anatomy from imagination

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    This morning I read this post and was buzzing,I thought that Frazetta guy doing that stuff from his mind Is amazing,I left to work in the shop with a smile on my face.(Its true I am a serious figurative artist and that is sacred to me and I really feel all that mark making is my soul force etc...)But I love a naked woman holding a sword as much as the next guy so imagine my dismay when I arrived back from work to read he was a fraud all along.So I thought to myself -that does it,I can prove to myself one way or the other by trying to do a single figure from memory in the Frazetta style and even though it will never be as good as the man him self it should give me the answer to the question.Q.Memory or Reference.
    Obviously through out art history paraphrasing your heros in your own work has went on for hundreds of years(I,m eluding to the use of a single figure copy)...........by the way the answer might be no,no Christopher you cant draw a figure from memory that looks half decent.

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    Here's the deal: Frazetta painted figures from his imagination, from models, and from other artists' work, and, without seeing a painting and it sources side-by-side, you can't tell which is which. That's the all-important takeaway.


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    Well I wouldn't say it's a "swipe" but saying Frazetta didn't use reference. I remember him mentioning a photo of his wife and it ended up being used in one of his paintings. I don't got the book by me right now so I'm sure someone will post it.

    I particularly don't care he used his wife as reference. But I have a hard time believing it was "just from memory" it's not discredit to the works he's done because he's really inspirational. I just don't see the harm in admitting "yeah wife posed and I took it from there".

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    Utterly not,as soon as photography was invented and became practical for the general user many major artists from art history used it with out any negative implication (Rodin,Degas,Picasso,etc)but to eliminate a layer of mechanical process from the expression of paint or any other medium may be a beneficial removal of a veil under certain circumstances.So if it is possible to have this power of figure from memory I am Interested.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    You either use reference or you don't. I've shown and stated all great artists use ref. This includes Frazetta. So why are you and others arguing that artists don't use it.
    Because there is a distinction between "using reference" and "using reference" sometimes. Take Brad Rigney for example. He will practice off the page to a problem for hours in order to commit it to memory. Then he'll come back to the painting and paint it from memory. Iaian McCaig uses a similar process.
    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    Frank said a bunch of stuff in his last days that contradicted himself when he was younger. In the old fanzines there were pictures of him posing for paintings and comic panels. I think its sad he felt he needed to be better than he was. He is probably the greatest American fantasy artist of the 20th century.
    Well I can't comment too much on Frazetta since I'm not really a fan like some others but a rational explanation could be that maybe as he got older he committed more and more to memory. To give an example of this. I remember reading a post from Marko where he stated that he loved Ctrl-Z while he paints. In a later post he stated that he doesn't use Ctrl-Z while he paints. Marko evolved in that direction. Marko also draws and paints from memory as well.
    Its a given that in order to draw from memory you have to draw from life and use references first. You have to commit it to memory through repetition and study. I'm not so sure what the quote actually is about Frank but it may just be that he can paint from memory well and not than he didn't use references.

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    No there isn't Jason. There's no qualifier on it. Using reference means to refer to something for information; life, photos, an object, other works of art or illustration. If someone says they never use ref and then use it they're just a liar and shame on them for confusing the issue for people starting out trying to gauge what they need to learn.

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    Quote Originally Posted by C McElhinney View Post
    ... so imagine my dismay when I arrived back from work to read he was a fraud all along.
    Noooo... I wouldn't ever call Frazetta a fraud. It's really difficult to explain and for the general public to understand methods of using reference. It's hard for a lot of pros!! No matter how much reference comes out of the woodwork, I still have a lot of respect for the man's work. He created his own design and style. He knew how to take an idea and make it a thousand times better. He's still "The Man" in my opinion.

    So with that said, here's some more examples...

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    The following is NOT an opinion: Frank Frazetta was way, way, wayyyyyy more talented than the average artist. To not get that understanding is a kind of failure of the imagination.

    All you have to do is look at what he doodled in his notebooks to see the incredible amount of information he could call upon from his imagination. I have seen almost every prelim he did for almost every painting he did and most of the information in the final paintings is already in the initial sketch. And what was left out was anatomy and lighting, which we know from looking at his notebooks he could well do out of his head.

    I would say way more than 50% of his work is unreferenced. Yet I am sure he used reference all the time when he felt he needed. None of the ref was slavishly copied.

    As I see it, the myth around Frazetta's artistic prowess is actually not all that much of myth.

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    I could definitely see more than 50% of his work is unreferenced! I imagine when he did use reference, he probably found it before he even did his rough? Anyways, no doubt he could outdraw anyone from memory too.

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    I'm not impugning Franks talent; but there is no need to lie about using reference to beginners; this idea you are a failure or your cheating if you use ref is BS. Everybody worth their salt uses it.

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    I don't think anyone is arguing on his ability. But rather just giving a bit of truth where something became a tall tale.

    Just because Frazetta used some reference doesn't equate to "completely from memory"
    And just because he used some reference doesn't equate to "he can't draw from memory"

    There is no black and white side to take here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    I'm not impugning Franks talent; but there is no need to lie about using reference to beginners; this idea you are a failure or your cheating if you use ref is BS. Everybody worth their salt uses it.
    Beginners also tend to slavishly copy photo reference, which only makes you good at copying photos, and you wont retain much from that. I say do studies of reference, but only take what you need, no use polishing. Then put the reference away and do it from your head.

    It seems TOO pointless to just do a study of something, without then testing what you've retained.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    No there isn't Jason. There's no qualifier on it. Using reference means to refer to something for information; life, photos, an object, other works of art or illustration. .
    Artistic reference isn't thought of so abstractly. When someone claims that no reference was used we understand exactly what that means. No one is really going to say "Yes you did because you referred to the humans that you've seen before and that now you have memorized." As if its the same thing as shooting a model(s) and copying elements or the whole. That's just not the essence of the discussion here.

    Frazetta is known for having painted most of his pictures straight from his head, instead of the standard practice (among realists) of relying on models. This approach may seem to be a foolish handicap, or even proof of laziness. But I believe it enabled Frazetta to compose pictures of greater power than most of his contemporaries. To quote
    the excellent Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting:

    "The memory exaggerates the essentials; the trifles of incidents tend to become blurred. Protracted painting of what one sees before him dulls the initial expressive shock. In painting from memory, the whole stress is laid on expressive agents. In direct-from-nature painting, much useless lumber insinuates itself, interesting for its own sake, but derogatory to the whole. The eye is greedy. There is always too much material seen, with not enough synthesis. Until mastery of memory is reached,
    the brain refuses to act as a filter."
    I'm don't think Frazetta ever claimed to never use reference.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Ross View Post
    I'm don't think Frazetta ever claimed to never use reference.
    I remember quite a few denials in the books I read.

    http://www.raggedclaws.com/home/2009...yeth-frazetta/

    But read the comments below after you read the article.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Ross View Post
    Its a given that in order to draw from memory you have to draw from life and use references first. You have to commit it to memory through repetition and study.
    First, just wanty to say I appreciate the discussion has been productive and civil.

    This is the sticking point for me though Jason. Correct me if I'm wrong, but "first" implies that at some point you know enough and have committed enough to memory that you no longer need reference? And that somehow you can commit to memory the nuances of light, form, texture, etc. through repetition and study?

    And I think we've all agreed that yes, to a certain extent you can develop relatively generic or stylized forms accurately. In Frazetta's case a handful of archetypes were easy for him to call into being, again, to a certain level of realism (sketches, composition layouts, etc.).

    So back to why I'm stuck on the notion of getting to a certain point and then it is committed to memory (which relates directly to the OP's original question).

    I don't believe it is true, and I think it is a major misconception, that you can "memorize" or study enough the infinite variables of light, form, texture and color to reproduce it at will from imagination. Particularly in the context of a scene and the complexities and relationships found therin.

    Basically to me it is an axiom in art that the more "realistic" or natural result one is attempting the more one needs to work from life. The proof of this axiom is that artists and illustrators do exactly that. Which was implied in my original question as to why would artists bother with models after a certain point if it wasn't necessary?

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    I remembered that Robert Beverly Hale talks about masters drawing from imagination a lot in Drawing Lessons From The Great Masters. I think that is part of where I got the idea that you're supposed to study until you can do it all from imagination. Upon reviewing the book, he isn't saying that at all. He's pointing out how they could do strong and anatomically informed sketches from imagination and how that level of knowledge greatly aided their drawings from the model.

    This drawing was made from a model, but Callot brought to it his knowledge of anatomy. Now most beginners seem to have a knowledge of the body drawn mostly from nursery rhymes: they know that people have thumbs (because of little Jack Horner) and a few other evident things, but that is all. And they will sit in a drawing class, sedulously copying the flesh in front of them day after day, making no attempt to identify and analyze each separate part.

    Now Callot knew the identity and function of every bump and hollow on this body. And what is more, because of his knowledge of anatomy. comparative anatomy, and function, he was able to characterize every bump and hollow so that they looked more like themselves than they actually did on the model.
    -page 186, bold is mine.

    Funny how you can read something and think you understand it fine and then later on it actually clicks for you.

    So my takeaway from this thread is that while I will continue to study and improve my knowledge, I now understand that hiring a model isn't taking the easy way out; rather it is probably the only realistic way to produce work with the degree of accuracy and realism that I am looking for.

    p.s. I really like dpaint's points about discouraging the myths that lead beginners to think they aren't supposed to use reference.

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    On a related note for Frazetta

    http://amzn.com/1613771673 - Already Released (Funny Stuff)

    http://amzn.com/1934331570 - The Frazetta Sketchbook slated for August of this year.

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    Most (all?) artists can render a more convincing figure from reference than they can from their imagination. But some artists can render a more convincing figure from their imagination than other artists can from reference.


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    And "convincing" is the operative word, which is related to, but not synonymous with, "realistic." In fact, sometimes a more realistic figure can be far less convincing.


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    amazing thread!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arshes Nei View Post
    On a related note for Frazetta

    http://amzn.com/1613771673 - Already Released (Funny Stuff)

    http://amzn.com/1934331570 - The Frazetta Sketchbook slated for August of this year.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    to a certain extent you can develop relatively generic or stylized forms accurately. In Frazetta's case a handful of archetypes were easy for him to call into being, again, to a certain level of realism (sketches, composition layouts, etc.)

    ....

    I don't believe it is true, and I think it is a major misconception, that you can "memorize" or study enough the infinite variables of light, form, texture and color to reproduce it at will from imagination. Particularly in the context of a scene and the complexities and relationships found therin.
    Here's some unreferenced pix of faces from my GN. Done fast, 15 min pencils usually, 15 ink, 15 to color. I don't believe the forms can be called generic.. they are rather complex, lighting is generally believable although simplified... you can say they are stylized, but really, its a comic book. If I took more time, I can render and render until it is photographic. (You'll just have to trust me on that.)

    If I can do it, Frazetta can do it in spades. I know Marko and Brad can do it, and a host of other guys too.

    EDIT: This is not to say that the below could not look better with the addition of reference too. I am well aware that this kind of work is not as real as realism can get.

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    Eh, As long as something is convincing and visually interesting is all that matters to me when viewing art. (Pure realism to me =/= quality) Hell something could be very 'unrealistic' in many senses that what's being drawn simply.... ... doesn't exist. Yet is still done convincing enough to read as realistic. Hell.... It's how many people can create creatures by compositing various parts of learned anatomy and tack on rendering/lighting completely from memory that is actually very detailed and amazing. I know I've seen pieces like that in the various sketchbooks I've perused over the years.

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    All the stuff in your head can ultimately be traced back to the outside world. Does it really matter THAT much how many neurons it passes through before it makes its way back out?

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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    Here's some unreferenced pix of faces from my GN. Done fast, 15 min pencils usually, 15 ink, 15 to color. I don't believe the forms can be called generic.. they are rather complex, lighting is generally believable although simplified... you can say they are stylized, but really, its a comic book. If I took more time, I can render and render until it is photographic. (You'll just have to trust me on that.)

    If I can do it, Frazetta can do it in spades. I know Marko and Brad can do it, and a host of other guys too.

    EDIT: This is not to say that the below could not look better with the addition of reference too. I am well aware that this kind of work is not as real as realism can get.
    Sure - and those are great examples and I have no doubt that you could take any of them to a very realistic finish, to the point we couldn't discern the difference between imagination and reference or life. But, (knew that was coming, right?) that isn't really what I'm getting at. I can quite easily paint a landscape out of my head and no one would be able to tell if it was from life, a photo or my noggin (not saying it would be anywhere near a Schmid or Aspevig or anything like that, but you wouldn't be able to tell).

    The thing is, and I know you're aware, is what we were saying earlier...you can only do that so much before mannered formulae creep in to solve problems resulting in repetitive work or stylization.

    What I've been trying to say, and will try to be more direct about it, is that working from life and nature leads to discoveries and nuances in light, form, texture and color that are not available if you don't. If one doesn't study much from life, one isn't even aware of the incredibly subtle, powerful effects one can observe. I believe that is the reason artists turn to life and nature to infrom their work, not simply because it is easier*, but because nature provides far richer information and wonder than our minds are capable of, and she provides it in context.

    *It's an absolute bitch to haul painting equipment into the high sierras on animals (and no small expense) and hike around at 11K feet for a week trying to paint. But being there is the only way I know to see the alpenglow on a glacial snowfield at dawn. Know what I mean?

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  37. #86
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    A quote from Marko on here I remember and had to look up which I just wanted to throw into the thread.
    But anyways.
    Marko's work is great also very convincing even though he works mainly from his head.
    But he points out a simple fact. You don't have to draw from life to grasp all these subtle nuances. You can get them from observation in general. (Not saying DON'T draw from life. Just that you can learn just from observing in your every day. It all depends on you and your observation how much you see and learn whether your doing a life drawing or just staring at the way a piece of cloth folds on the person next to you on the bus and analyzing it.)


    (Damn....lol reading this makes me realize how little of this I do outside of studies..... )


    all you read about me is true. I never had art classes or formal art education in general, I learned anatomy and composition on my own. The only anatomy book I ever owned was the one by Burne Hogarth. It fell into my hands when I was 12, and I devoured it for a year. Did drawings right out of it to learn basic proportions and exaggerated anatomy. Later on, my observance of life and the people around me gave me the oppurtunity to put a layer of realism above my figures.

    I see it like this. I take nothing in life for granted. When I go out with friends, I want the night to be as amazing as possible, because I want to keep it as a good memory. Because if I remember something, I can use it again for my drawings. If I like the way a girl talks to me, I will remember how her lips move, or how she folds her hands together. If I like the way a bum is falling through the streets, I will watch him and remember.
    Too many people close their eyes for what life has to offer. They take their environment as it comes, pay no attention to the body language of their friends and thus lose connection to their memories. They take up references when they draw, because they are too afraid to call upon their brain and memories.
    I think perception, observation of the world around you doesn't only make you a better artist, but at the end of the day a better human being as well. Because if you learn to pay attention to you surroundings, to the people you hang out with, to your girl, or your dog, you learn to understand these beings better. You start developing empathy, because you read the body language of people, you realize how the lips of your best friend tremble, when he is nervous, you know that your girl is mad at you because she scratches her palms, etc.

    There are many artists out there claiming that a formal education is essential for producing art. I say, that's nonsense.
    You need to have an keen and open mind first, before you're able to produce anything artistic. You gotta have an appretiation for life, instead of denial.

    I tend to see art teachers as car mechanics.
    A car mechanic will be able to tell you everything about a Mercedes, he will explain how the motor functions, how the gas is flowing through the engine, how the breaks work. He'll be able to explain to you every single detail of the car, but he will never be able to explain, why any given person in this world drives exactly this car from Berlin to Paris and parks it close to the Louvre.
    Same with Art. You can build up any system of rules you want but in the end Art is Magic.
    And Magic is real.


    Last edited by JFierce; May 16th, 2012 at 02:52 AM.
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    To Howlin:He's not a fraud for using photos hes fraudulent for saying he didnt,and any way that was dramatic liscence obviously I dont think Frank guy is anything but a great(est) Illustrator.My answer above to Arshes Nei shows I'm good with reference but I also speculate It comes with subtle nuances that in art can make large differences.Rodin sometimes used photos and mainly worked from life models but was greatly influenced by Horace le coque de boisbaudran ideas which can still be read in the book "memory in art".

    Last edited by slovakhorse; May 16th, 2012 at 04:07 AM.
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    maybe yeh maybe nae

    This may be an initial gesture drawing then its finished development?possibly an example "the other way".

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    Arshes Nei is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    Quote Originally Posted by JFierce View Post
    But he points out a simple fact. You don't have to draw from life to grasp all these subtle nuances. You can get them from observation in general. (Not saying DON'T draw from life. Just that you can learn just from observing in your every day. It all depends on you and your observation how much you see and learn whether your doing a life drawing or just staring at the way a piece of cloth folds on the person next to you on the bus and analyzing it.)
    I'm kinda not sure what that even means. I think people have this idea that "Draw from life" is this stuffy practice of setting things up a certain way elegant nude models floating by, fruit bowls, direct lighting on a ball and drawing from it. I took draw from life as observing everything around you, put together how it works and WHY. If you're doodling a bag on a bus seat, it's still drawing from life if it interested you. If you took notes and such - great.

    Drawing from life is actually "observation in general" it means learning to see what's around you.

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    The key difference I guess would simply be the drawing part and simple observation without a pencil in hand. Not everyone takes a pencil everywhere and your certainly not going to be sketching every second when talking to a friend and observing how their facial features shift and move. Or once again that bum walking down the street I doubt your going to crouch down on the street and start trying to sketch him.

    I think the point he was making is a lot of artists do their studies and get in a mode where "Ok I'm doing life drawings now I'm observing" instead of just observing and taking note of things in their everyday in general (Thats what I got out of it at least). I admit I don't because I get distracted by the things that take hold of my day to day life.... though I should pay a bit more attention even if art right now is just a serious hobby.

    Last edited by JFierce; May 16th, 2012 at 02:32 PM.
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