Advice for a 'Xerox artist'.

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  1. #1
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    Advice for a 'Xerox artist'.

    That is, someone whose artistic process consists of taking a reference pic and meticulously, slavishly copying it, starting with the eyes (or, if not drawing a person or animal, some other core detail) and working their way out. Someone who has, on the positive side of things, has good sight and can produce impressively photorealistic work, but is otherwise helpless without their references and whose freehand drawing is pitiful at best. A maddening perfectionist who can't live with a drawing (or themselves) until it is free of perceived flaws and is so afraid of failure they can never relax enough to properly sketch or draw gesture. I call them Xerox artists because they're like human photocopiers; and while they copy very well, it's essentially all they can do.

    I think everybody here knows a Xerox artist, or is/was one themselves. I'm one, unfortunately... and I believe I've reached a point where this style of working is seriously cramping my potential for improvement, which is why I decided to quit lurking this place and finally get an account.

    Now, I know that very artist is afraid of failure, even if not to such obsessive levels, and I can only imagine every artist to have success eventually had to learn to overcome their fear. So, people here: how have you become more relaxed about their drawing, more accepting of failure and altogether less precious about the whole process?

    Alternatively... Am I right for thinking that the only real solution to this problem is to quit complaining and practice gesture until I get over myself? :x

    Thanks.

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  3. #2
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    Nope, or at least not completely. The real solution to this problem is to quit complaining and practice structural drawing until you get over yourself.

    This means weaning yourself off the flat reference picture and working from life or imagination, focusing on the form and light instead of flat shapes and spots, trying to understand the underlying structure and generalized form instead of focusing on surface details.

    Gesture drawing can help a lot to loosen up, but if you don't have any experience with seeing the form and constructing the structure in your drawings, you'll probably find gesture drawing very frustrating.

    (By the way, if you are really copying photos but cannot draw freehand, there is a big chance that your copies aren't as stellar as you think, either. People who are not thinking in terms of form, volume and light tend to get huge mistakes in every aspect of their copied photo, simply because they have not trained themselves to look for the right thing. Using a photo is more difficult than working from life, not less so, however unintuitive that might seem. But I cannot say if that is the case with your drawings, since you have not provided any samples.)

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  5. #3
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    Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I get told to draw gesture pretty often but whenever I try, what I produce is usually an incoherent mess. Not in a relaxed, sketchy way, but in a way where all I capture of the subject is that they're probably human. No real sense of form. Think of the stuff most kids produce when they try to draw something realistic and you've got it.

    Also - I added a link to my sketchbook in my signature, see what you think. Everything in there but the teapot is from photo reference. I'm going to take up on your advice and try to focus on life studies for now.

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    If most of your attempts at gesture drawings (there are many types) mostly look like amorphous shit, you're doing it right. The saving grace is that you are learning proportion...the sense of where things belong in relation to other things...

    ONWARD AND UPWARD, YOUNGLING! Just ignore the fact that you're going uphill for now, because it gets easier.

    No position or belief, whether religious, political or social, is valid if one has to lie to support it.--Alj Mary

    Ironically, the concept of SIMPLICITY is most often misunderstood by simple-minded people. --Alj Mary
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    Oh my god it's Ilaekae!!!

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  9. #6
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    I like the term Xerox artist. Very astute analysis there At least you are aware of the limitations of copying photos, or as they say in AA (or somewhere...) - you have to admit there is a problem before you can seek a solution. You are definitely on your way to quick improvement now that you are drawing from life.

    And to your question directly, I find it helpful to simply keep this whole art thing in some perspective. We put color and shapes on a paper or a computer screen. That is it. Now I know art can be powerful and moving and income producing and all that, but when it comes down to it, it is changing the surface of a paper. And if you don't like the surface of one paper, just learn what you can from it and move on to the next. And just enjoy the process!

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