Thursday, May 28, 2015

What's that saying? Do as I say........

I am constantly bugging my students about reference photos. Everyone who comes to class hears.... "Do you have your reference picture?" I'm pretty sure they get tired of hearing me ask that question but reference photos are a must. If you're going to paint something that you want to look realistic then you need to have a good reference. There are some folks in the world who think you're only a good artist if you can paint or draw anything out of your head without having to look at any references. I've heard people say this very thing and it's a very big misconception. Even the old masters used references. They might not have had a nifty DSLR camera or a phone that takes pictures but they used other methods including having models pose, setting up still lifes and dioramas in their studios or painting plein air.

So, after all that, after all the years of nagging people for good reference pics, did I take my own advice? I started a portrait commission recently. I got the reference photo via email and then printed it out. It was pretty blurry but I thought I could still work from it. Boy was I wrong. I got the basic shapes down (or so I thought) and proceeded to add color. The longer I worked the harder it became. I just couldn't tell what was going on. If you're working on something like a face you'd better have the detail info. Below is the photo I was trying to work with.

Check out this next photo..... what a difference a few more pixels make. Thankfully my client was able to get me a better image. So that's what this little guy's eyes look like! And there are pineapples on his hat- I had no idea what those orange blobs were.

When I went back to work on the portrait I had to re-draw portions of the hat and re-draw all the facial features. It certainly would have saved me time had I waited for a better picture to start with.

This is the portrait in progress. Lots to do yet and I still have a few adjustments to make on the face but it certainly is a lot easier to work with a good photo reference. Lesson learned: take my own damn advice! :)

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