Monday, March 17, 2008
From Life or From Photos: A Personal View
There has always been a debate about drawing from life versus drawing from photographs. It is very common for someone who is learning to draw to begin with copying from photos. This can be a very useful method of learning to translate to two dimensions. (When you copy from a photo, it is already in two dimensions. If you do enough of them, in connection with looking at a similar subject in life, you see patterns and then can make the translation instinctively.)
However, at some point, they say you ought to move to copying from your own photos to drawing from life. I have heard many artists say that they use photographs, but just bring multiple photographs together in their minds. It is important to learn to compose your own piece, beginning with putting "the scene" together.
Personally, I have learned to draw from copying photos, both how to translate to 2D and principles in composing a piece. These days I only use photos in two situations. First, if I am doing something for my own practice (technique or composition), I find using a photograph to eliminate complication and focus on the element that I am interested in very helpful. Secondly, if I am doing something that isn't possible to observe from life while I am creating the piece. In that second instance, I usually use a reference (or two) to get the lines right, and then ignore the reference and just work from my mind.
All that to say, I definitely see a use for photos, but as my goal is not photo-realism, they aren't my constant companion.
Tomorrow, a look at how two famous artists used photographs, unashamedly.