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.
... 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.
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.
Last edited by kev ferrara; May 15th, 2012 at 06:52 PM.
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.
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.
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.
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?
What would Caravaggio do?
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.
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.