Industry Announcements for May 2007
Solvents and Cleaners
News for May
Dealing with Art Directors
Life Models and References Used in Art
Harmony of the Spheres
Life Models and References Used in ArtBehind the Art
by Annie Rodrigue
In a period when I feel that we see a lot of photorealistic art being produced, especially with the flourishing industry of 3D and of the digital painting, I think a column about photo references and life models could be interesting to most of you! For those of you who know the kind of paintings that I do, you might wonder if I use references myself. In fact, I do. It's essential. Even to create more cartoonish styled paintings, one needs to study life around him / her. As artists, we all need to draw from life.
Why Is It so Important to Study From Life?
The first reason: because it is the most basic element of art. If you are just starting with art (may it be in any style you want: cartoon, realistic, fantasy or abstract), stop and look around you. Look at people, look at animals, look at objects. Try drawing them. Put on paper their poses. It's not an easy task. But the truth is, if you practice this part very hard, you will see substantial improvement in everything else you draw.
Keep in mind that it is easier to draw a character when you actually know how to draw hands, feet, heads, bodies and/or clothes. It is also easier to create a monster, if you've drawn some real animals before. You can deform anatomy when you know what anatomy is.
In a world where we are bombarded with images everyday, we all have a head start because we have quite a library of images stuck in our brain. But we need to keep those images fresh in our minds to be able to put them easily on paper. Thus we need to train our mind by studying what is around us.
What Can We Use as Reference?
We can put them in two categories: life model references and photo references. We consider a life model pretty much anything around us: other people, animals, plants, buildings, etc. It is anything of which you can see the three-dimensional aspect of. A photo reference on the other hand is when an element is printed on a two-dimensional media. It's flat and we cannot see its full aspect.
I know a lot of artists like to stick to pictures. I do too when I cannot actually get a certain item in front of me. I just finished a painting where I needed to draw a plane. It would be hard for me to actually get a plane whenever I need it. So of course I will find a photo instead. But I do not actually recommend working with pictures only. If you actually are able to get the real thing in front of you, do so. A three-dimensional item will always have more information than a flat picture.
These aspects are important to know when you are drawing them. If you have ever been to a life model session, you will know what I mean when I say that they have so much more to offer than a picture of that same model. It is easier to draw a more believable person, when you draw it from life. It is easier to study anatomy when you see it in front of you. You can to see it in its every angle. You see where the light source is coming from, see how shadows drop on the clothing or muscles. You can feel the shapes of the body.
For those moments when you cannot have a model in front of you full time, they are a few options before turning to the photo media. The second best to having a model, is to use yourself as a model. Go in front of the mirror and do the pose. Look at yourself and study yourself. You can also ask family or friends to pose for you. (If you need some almost naked reference, you can always ask them to pose in a bathing suit.) The mall or parks are other good options. People won't pose for you, but you can study different clothings, different body shapes, different ethnicity. The zoo will provide plenty of animal references! The outdoors will give you plenty of trees, plants and buildings to draw. Get yourself a small sketching pad and carry it with you always.
The Do's and Don'ts of Photo References
When all other options are out of the question, I like to go with photos. But we need to be careful. Photos are so easy to find everywhere on the web or in books. A lot of people think that if there are easily accessible, we might as well use them, but it shouldn't be so. Photos, just like art, are copyrighted. Copying from copyrighted work is fishy business. So it is better to stay away from photos when you do not know where they come from.
Today, a lot of stock is available through Deviantart.com from artists that will allow you to use their work for references as long as you give them credit. Digital cameras are also very affordable so you can easily take your own pictures. When I am really stuck, I ask my boyfriend to take a picture of me while I do a particular pose that I need for my work. I also go out and take pictures of everything I find interesting; I keep them on CDs and save them for future use. Built your own bank of images. Label them for easy searching.
This isn't exactly a summary, but I have two great book recommendations that I think could interest a lot of you. Just lately, I stumbled upon "Virtual Pose 3" by Mario Henri Chakkour. There seems to be a 1 and a 2 but I didn't get a chance to put my hand on them. This book offers nude references specifically for artists. You have 8 photos of each pose in different angles, but on top of this, a CD is included in the book where you can load a Quicktime file of the pose and you can literally move the image around so you can virtually see the rotation of the pose. It's not exactly like having a real model in front of you, but it is pretty darn close! I was extremely impressed with the quality of the images and the originality of the idea!
My second recommendation: "The Artist's Complete Guide to Figure Drawing" by Anthony Ryder. Anthony Ryder must be one of the best figure drawing artists out there. The pictures in the book are breathtaking and the explanations couldn't be clearer. He explains simple shading techniques and also explains how to analyse a life model so you can easily put it on paper. A book worth every penny!
We will be setting up our working space! How to keep everything neat and tidy but we will also check out our posture when we are at the working table.
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