So I decided to take part in another drawing jam.... which I guess is most always a girly celebrity topic. I'm so of a mixed mind though when it comes to participating in drawing jams. I have long thought of the DrawingBoard site as a cool place for artists to get to know each other and I think it's great to have to draw things you wouldn't normally choose to draw.... but hmmm. Drawing stuff based on photos still feels like big time cheating to me, even if I'm changing proportions/simplifying stuff. And it seems like there are more people on there literally tracing the provided photos than finding original ways to draw them.

I think if I were to draw this again, I'd want her head more 3/4 down, regardless of the photo.

Anyway, here's the photo we were given to paint;

I curious to know everyone elses thoughts on using photos for reference. Good idea? Bad idea? Can you still call it your original art when it's based so directly on a photo?


pascal said…
First off..its a beautiful drawing.
Nice take on the picture.
second.. bravo for actually coming out and saying you do that.

In my experience, i see a lot of concept artists, expecially for games, who inspire themselves greatly from pictures.
BUT..all of the ones I know can draw like nobody's business straight out of their heads.

I think,for people who know how to draw, it could be an improvemnet, a study of some sort.
For others, I think it might be a cruch , that would not necessarily help them improve.

In short.
It's like a tool.
It won't make you better, won't make you worse.
It depends how you use it
Kent said…
I don't think using photos for reference is a bad thing, especially when you do something really nice like your illustration. Its just a starting place if you know what you're doing.

I do think the subject matter would get very boring very quickly. There's got to be more interesting subjects to work from than airbrushed celebrity portraits.
Sam Nielson said…
I will second that motion.

Tools are funny things. Some people can use a screwdriver like nobody's business, and it's true that such a person can be called great. But that still doesn't change the fact that they're going to have trouble if they get into a situation where they have to use a hammer instead.
Anonymous said…
There's nothing wrong with using photo-reference. Some of the greatest painters of our time, from Tim Hildebrandt to Norman Rockwell extensively used photos as reference.
sarah said…
Interesting thoughts everyone.... subject matter aside, it was kind of neat to base my colour palette on an existing one.

I really hope nobody thinks I generally draw using photos like this or advocate it. But even though I dislike painting photos, from time to time it's probably a good exercise. It's always beneficial to refresh that mental visual dictionary with new information about light, colour, shapes and so forth.
Chris Gardner said…
I agree with the general vibe here, as long as you don't use them as a crutch. As long as your drawing skills don't go by the wayside because you get all photo-happy. Outside of that, I think it's just fine as it certainly can teach us things. Certainly drawing from nothing at all gives us skills we wouldn't otherwise have. There have been many times at my job that I've had to do portraits of people and I rely on photos to do the job so I decided a long time ago that I'd make certain to take something positive away from every one of those instances. I'll probably post an example of such a job sometime tonight since we're on the topic. However, I will say that nothing is quite as satisfying as pulling something out of thin air. I've got to get involved with one of these "drawing sites" you guys go to, how the heck does that all work?
Vanhoozerbot said…
My stuff is so wacky and lacking when it comes to structure, that photos don't really help me... but having said that, I do think that they can be of some use when trying to figure out a tricky angle or pose. They also help if you are looking for a particular color palette and the section of your brain that deals with color is on vacation. The art that comes right from your head, usually ends up being the coolest anyway.

Unknown said…
Great picture. Love the cool lighting you gave it.

Here's my 2 cents.

$0.01 - A photo is a hack. Meaning a shortcut to a solution. The problem is representing reality. If you've studied physical objects you should be able to represent them in a reality. If you don't have time or motivation to study the object, hack it with a photo. just understand the parts that are visible on the plane.

$0.02 - A photo is like an archeological dig. Not all the details are there, and as a good scientist (artist) you have to piece that back together. You don't care about the bones, but about the person and times they belonged to.

So basically I approve the use, but I don't use them for the most part.

colin said…
Basically, I agree with what everyone else said.

As a person who paints and draws entirely as a hobby (and who is still waaay down at the base of the learning curve), drawing from a photo is, for me, good practice. Not as good as drawing from life, but it's hard for me to arrange to draw people from life, and drawing people is something I enjoy doing.

I like drawing from my head, but I still have a lot to learn about light and form, even just basic things like anatomy and proportion, and drawing from photos has been a big help to me so far.

Tracing, of course, is no help at all. Drawing with grids and such also seems, to me, to be taking it too far. The point is to understand why things look a certain way, so I can do it right when I don't want to make a copy of something.

$0.02 from the peanut gallery.
Unknown said…
That's a cool caricature painting!
Cool drawing! (Funny thing - our yearbook theme is based on People Magazine .. basically celebish stuff .. oops ..wasn't suppose to tell anyone. :) )
Anyways -- refrences are very helpful if the object you need isn't right in front of you or it's difficult to find anyone to pose for you. So they can be helpful .. so long as you change it enough that you aren't sued (cause who really wants to deal with court?).
Personally -- I prefer taking my own pictures to help myself with getting poses figured out etc.
I do have one painting a lot of people seem to really like -- and originally in the magazine it was back and white -- but I drastically changed it so she has colors and .. well .. it really didn't look that much like her -- but it was very helpful (especially before I learned how to actually draw humans haha).

So it depends on how you use it. If its copying the image directly - thats just down right pointless - now isn't it? :) Unfortunately some people do that -- fortunately - most people can tell the difference. (Example - I've been told by my art friends that there are students who copy drawings out of manga .. and color then and make them look pretty - then turn them in as a portfolio for colleges. They are of course turned away -- thank goodness for those of us who are trying to fairly get in to art school haha.)

Anyways -- thats all I had to say! :)
And thanks for the comment on the animals -- I drew them (and a lot more!) at the San Diego zoo!

<3 Jessie
Unknown said…
youi make some interesting points but i woud'nt really call it cheating. the reference is just that and as an artist one should be able to pick and chose what's worth emphesizing. nice rendition by the way.
cristian said…
It's a nice take, really an awesome interpretation on that picture!
I agree with the rest of opinions. There's nothing wrong in taking references from pictures, or other drawings or paintings.
You've got your style, and you are free to take these references and make it on your own, using them like a tool, just like you use a pencil or a brush.
I think it's part of making art. And your art is really amazing!!
Augusto said…
Sarah...I just stumbled upon your blog and man do I dig your style. Good job on all pieces. I'll be checking back for sure.
mike said…
i get so frustrating whan i try to draw from photos. i get to lost in the detail and there's always this lack of movement and personality to the the drawing that you don't get from real life.

that said, i think photos are good refference and can be used as such. kinda like what pascal said.

i know the jam you're talking about and if i was going to participate in it i would do what you did and figure out how to simplyfy the photo in to my own style.

though i'd probably just get frustrated. :)
Gerald de Dios said…
Drawing Jam sounds fun. I like how yours turned out. It looks like her!

I just checked out the site and saw the variety of takes on the photos. I think that's it....to see, study, learn how others percieve photos. So many styles and techniques to make a caricature. Some use simple strokes and they capture the image...and some with mind-blowing details along with the same emotion in the photo. Now that's hard to do! All in all...it was a great exercise. I think you should do more - you're awesome.
David Malan said…
Photos are very useful tools, it's basically in my opinion the best thing to do, next to drawing from life. I spent years drawing interesting people from magazines, I feel thats were I got all my drawing skill. A lot of artists can't draw people because they think you need to do it from their head.
For realistic artwork you should always have photo reference because you can't make up all the subtle details in a human body.
Anonymous said…
your picture is so true i love the way you used the picture as a referance that is an intresting way to to it. not many people how hard it is to look at a picture than recreate it using paint. but you did a wonderful job. bravo!!
Anonymous said…
I use photos for pose references, since I dont' have access to models (literally--I don't go outside very much, even on my days off). But I never copy more than that. I used to, and I can, but I don't. I suppose I feel like it's cheating, though of course mimicry is a part of the natural learning process.
Anonymous said…
Hi Nice Blog .The detailedHuman Anatomy study , for example, of the bronchial tree as seen through the bronchoscope is now of great importance. The introduction of laparoscopic and thoracoscopic instruments to explore and operate in the abdomen and thorax respectively has also opened new vistas as surgeons require to learn their anatomical landmarks through these approaches.