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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post

    Drawing from Photos vs. Life

    Hi all,

    I spent a lot of time drawing from photos and art as practice. Like- a lot. Three years more or less, using a majority photo reference. Granted, I have drawn plenty from life too, but more from photos (If I were to guess maybe like 35% life, 65% photos?)

    I have wished I have drawn from life more. Alas- I can't reclaim that past time, and can only start now- and I'm pretty much drawing 100% from life from this point onwards.

    I'm aware that drawing from life you really get to see depth and 3 dimensionality that you really can't get from a photo.

    I guess I make this thread in the hopes that despite not drawing 'as much' from life, I didn't neglect to gain 'too much' ability versus if I had drawn from life the entire time.... And I'm hoping that all my drawing from photos will still serve useful in the life drawing I do onwards.

    Curious to hear thoughts.
    Last edited by Artasaurus; June 7th, 2018 at 06:46 AM.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Thanked 541 Times in 452 Posts
    Well I think it depends if you have access what you are studying in real life then study from life would be better if not then study it from life, drawing/painting from photo is bit tricky as composition usually sux, edges are all over the place, values/colors are not even close to real life etc. Sorry Benedict for using this here without asking you first but its just good example for this you don't have to include everything, you can even chance things to fit your composition (this requires knowledge of foundations) if you look at old masters they did it too but they painted from life.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Toronto, Ontario
    Thanked 1,305 Times in 1,036 Posts
    In addition, drawing from photos makes you take composition and subject matter for granted, so you will not train your eye to recognize good composition and design. If you want to be deadly honest to yourself, start at 0.
    Grinnikend door het leven...

    Sketchbook Blog

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Thanked 507 Times in 402 Posts
    Drawing from photos is still good practice. And you will likely be using photo reference often in most works. But the more you've drawn from life, the more convincing your drawings from photos will be. But it doesn't really go the other way around I don't think. Your drawings from photos might be useful to your life drawing, but they might not, depending on how you did them.

    I find that when I work from a photo now, after having drawn from life almost exclusively for a few years, I don't really follow it that closely, or even look at it often once I get started. Every person naturally assumes a photo is the most like reality that you can get. Even to the point where some people will take a photo of their subject, and then paint that instead of the real thing. but it just isn't the case!

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post
    I did have a decent amount of life drawing experience while drawing from photographs. Not necessarily a spectacular amount...but decent.

    Now (especially), I can recognize that a photograph is a compressed drawing, that can often make objects appear to be on similar planes, when in reality, the space is far more three dimensional.

    I use the term 'photos' loosely, I've often drawn from flat images in general, including mimicing other 2D art as practice.

    Well....hopefully all that photo drawing wasn't mostly for naught...

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts
    Wen't to an atelier for 6 months and the first 3 months we had to draw from 2d photos just to learn to handle a pen and learn the basic of seing like monkeys basicly. Then a mix of cast's and drawing from Life.
    I Think you defenitly should go all in for Life drawing. But I guess copying 2d Pictures can give you a "library of poses" that you can use, and maybe if you are an experience painter you can learn from watching the strokes, I'm not there yet. But yeah you've wasted you're time yeah!

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Brooklyn, NY
    Thanked 83 Times in 58 Posts
    Andrew Loomis had an interesting perspective on this in his book Successful Drawing, stating how handicapping it can be to artists, and that was in the 1950s.

    In my own experience drawing from photographs before doing life drawing, and continuing to draw mostly from photos for years after that, I realize how important it is to ensure that you use a high quality photograph with a good light source that highlights the form. I have gotten better at this in recent years, but photographs I had taken before that were poor in this regard and so any drawing done from them would already be lacking. Nevertheless, there can also be a lack of clarity of planes with photographs, as well as a lack of the subtleties that the human eye can discern that make the form more 3-dimensional. Knowledge of the fundamentals is thus highly important to overcome the deficiencies of the photograph and is better derived from real life experience and observation. If I had to do it over, I would first study the fundamentals and anatomy, from real life, and then start drawing from photographs once I know how to "see" and interpret, so that I would be making artistic decisions based on my knowledge rather than copying.

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