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Reference Photos Aren’t Cheating

16 Jan

I get asked a lot, “How do you draw _____?” That blank can be any number of things; from hands to profiles, to foreshortening (I hate foreshortening, by the way). I am far from being an expert, I’m not trained to teach and I was self taught up until I did two years of art school after high school.

However, I like to help. So, I try to offer what advice I can and the one I keep coming back to is “draw from life.” Any artist will tell you how invaluable this is. I offer this to aspiring artists or accomplished artists in a rut. The class that did the most for me and the class I wish I could continue to take forever is Life Drawing. Even if you have no desire to do photo realism, if your style is super exaggerated-cartoony, you still want a solid base.

Obviously we won’t always have access to life drawing classes. Sometimes there isn’t one close, sometimes we just don’t have the money or the time. So my friends, I draw your attention to the next best thing. Reference photos! “But Lore,” you might ask, “Isn’t that cheating?” No. No its not. I don’t think using a reference photo makes you any better or worse of an artist. I tell myself all the time; I should use reference photos more. My husband gets stuck posing for me every now and again and I’ve been known to put calls out on Twitter for pose references.

There are quite a large number of artists on Deviant Art who mention reference photos in their work. The key is to note, if you didn’t take the photo yourself, where it came from. Even a number of professional artists have noted using reference photos to make sure their lighting, structure, etc. is correct. (I believe Luis Royo is one of them but I couldn’t track down the article from a number of years ago so don’t quote me on that.)

I’d like to point out that referencing is not the same as redrawing a picture line for line. If your goal is to replicate a photo as closely as possible there’s nothing wrong with that, just make sure you give credit where credit is due, if someone else took the picture. While I wouldn’t recommend referencing your pose from someone else’s work, I wouldn’t discourage that 100% either. Again, just make sure you credit and probably check with the original artist before showing off your masterpiece. I personally don’t even mind an attempt to copy a piece line for line or tracing because, admittedly, these practices helped me learn. However, again, please credit the original artist and check with them before showing off. If you do this and don’t credit, you have now become and art thief and whether you intended to or not, it’s very disrespectful to the original artist and can easily result in unwanted and negative attention. Not to mention its just bad form.

The point is; really, don’t be afraid to draw from life. Whether it is your friend or a sibling posing for you, or a photo you took or found on the internet. It will help in the long run, I promise. Just remember, if you borrow from someone else’s work (yes, Google image search is someone else’s work) to credit them for their creativity and hard work too.


Lore’s Guide to Drawing Profiles

7 Dec

So Hill came down to my dungeon the other day (where she usually keeps me chained to my drafting table) and said, “Since Jeni’s getting ready to have this baby you need to write a post.” Okay, so that’s not exactly what she said but the gist is there. To which I responded, “A post?! Oh boy!” Followed immediately by, “What the flipping fudge to I write about?!”

The obvious answer is write about what you know. What do I know? I guess you could call me the Diva’s Artist in Residence? So, let’s talk about art.

I get asked the “How do I draw ____?” all the time. So today we’ll tackle human profiles. Now I’m thinking “Dear God, what have I gotten myself into?”

First, I’d like to point out, this is just the way I do things. Its not the right way, its not the only way, its just a way. If it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong.

Now its time for a Lore’s Tip for Aspiring Artists: References are not cheating folks. Say it with me “references are not cheating.”

Let’s get this ball rolling:

1. This is a circle, when drawing people, the circle is your friend. Know it, love it, embrace it.

2. Add the chin. You see I’ve drawn it straight down from the front of my circle. This step my seem unnecessary later, but it is. Trust me.

3. In this step I’ve extended the back of head to account for the skull.

4. In this step, I’ve started adding the neck so the head has something to connect to. I’m sure a floating head without a neck would look awkward.

5. Here I’ve added guides for eyes, nose and mouth. My eyes aren’t exactly centered in my head, they probably should be, but it works! Also note the position of the nose at the bottom of our circle and the position of the mouth roughly half way between the nose and chin.

6. Here I’ve followed that initial line I drew. On a male I might make the forehead a little more pronounced; on the female its a smoother slope. The nose sticks out the farthest and drops into the mouth. Note the indents between the nose and mouth and the mouth and chin.

7. At this point I’ve added a guide bisecting the head for the ear. I’ve also added a sloping jaw up to it. If this were a male the jaw wouldn’t sloped so steeply. Note: even if I’m planning to ink and color I still add hints of shading here and there. It helps me keep in mind where the shading will go when I go to color.

8. I’ve erased my original guide line for the front of the face, added the eye and eyebrow on the guideline I drew for that. Also added a little shading.

9. At this point I added the ear. Note the ear extends from the eyebrow line to the nose line. Detailing the ear is a whole tutorial unto itself.

10. At this point I start adding hair. Hair has weight and volume. Unless its really dirty it won’t sit right against the scalp. And if its pulled back it will add more space to head. I’ve decided to go with a pony-tail so all of my detail lines are leading back to the spot where all the hair is gathered. The bangs are loose.

11. I’ve started drawing the pony-tail itself with a little lift and curl. The hairline grows down in front of the ear a bit.

12. More detail lines in the hair, all ending at the gathering spot of the pony-tail.

13. Yes more detail lines, and fleshing out the bangs, I think I may have added more to the pony-tail here.

14. I wasn’t able to clean the whole thing up because I got confused as to which layer I was on, but here you have it.

I hope someone somewhere found this help. Now I’m being herded back to my drafting table.

(On a side note, people say to me all the time, “I’m not an artist, like you.” To which I reply, “Do you enjoy art?” If the answer is yes, then you are an artist.)