Drawing from reference photos

March 27th, 2019 / Illustrations Basics

Today’s post begins a new series on our blog about drawing from sources and from nature. We’ll start with creating based on reference photos.

Artists over the centuries have always supported themselves while they were drawing. Probably the most extreme example is the camera obscura device. We can compare it to today’s casting a picture on an easel with a slide projector or tracing the photo. This is a bad way to use references… We do not learn much in this way – our work is then not our own at all. To learn how to build a composition, create a palette of colors, proportions, perspective and anatomy, you have to draw it several times yourself. Should we use the help to learn – of course. If this help was not based on copying the work of someone else.

legitimate reference sources Turdus Concept
Why do we have to use references at all?

Let us consider why learning to draw in general we have a real need to use the photo or draw from nature. The answer to this question lies in our brain. It has the task of remembering many things for us – our past, the distant and immediate, important matters to do, the names of our loved ones and the name of everything that surrounds us (sometimes in several languages) etc. etc. In addition, it has the task of receiving and sending signals from and to the whole body. These are not easy tasks. To be able to function many things are remembered in a symbolic way.

When we sit down and draw from our imagination without any previous exercises, our drawings will unfortunately be misrepresented. It’s a bit like gossip – someone repeats the version of the story he heard, but inaccurately and in the place of badly memorized fragments he inserts paraphrased versions.

Likewise when drawing, if we do not see a lying dog in front of us, will we remember how his legs will bend? In many cases, it just will not work. Something we probably more or less we will make it up and it will look more or less unnatural. It’s different if we draw this lying dog from the reference from different angles several times. And if we studied some of its anatomy it would be perfect. Then we create a more permanent and accurate path in our brain. We train the muscles of our hands and perception appropriately, which results in better sketches in the future.

reference copyrights is the key Turdus Concept
… and how to do it to be good.

However, you need to remember a few details:

  • The photo must be from the so-called open stock – without third-party copyright.
  • If you draw to the drawer and not show your drawings to anyone of course, you can draw from any photos.
  • However, if you intend to sell your work then you absolutely need to buy a photo, use a royalty free or self-made photo.
  • If you present your picture on the internet – please provide the source you used.

What are the advantages of drawing from photos:

  • it is quite easily available. Sometimes finding a dream shot is breally troublesome. However, it is certainly easier to draw from a picture of an exotic flower than go where it grows. Even if it was supposed to be in a nearby botanical garden. For sure it will be easier to find a photo of it in the internet
  • We can go back to the photo at any time, in the picture we can capture the movement and calmly analyze it later.
  • if we take a photo by ourselves then we can plan the composition etc., so we learn a lot. In addition, we can capture any angle and pose that suits us.

Drawing from the photos has also drawbacks and we should not draw only from them – Why? I will write about it next week.

And what are your way to learn drawing? Do you use photos? Are you drawing from nature or from imagination ?? Let me know in the comment!