Is Drawing From Reference Good Practice Or Is It Bad?


Is Drawing From Reference Good Practice Or Is It Bad?

*This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Drawing is a form of visual art in which an artist uses instruments to mark paper or other two-dimensional surfaces. Drawing instruments include graphite pencils, pen and ink, various kinds of paints, inked brushes, colored pencils, crayons, charcoal, chalk, pastels, erasers, markers, styluses, and metals.

Drawing as formal artistic creation which might be defined as the primarily linear rendition of objects in the visible world, as well as of concepts, thoughts, attitudes, emotions, and fantasies given visual form, of symbols and even of abstract forms. 

This definition, however, applies to all graphic arts and techniques that are characterized by an emphasis on form or shape rather than mass and color, as in painting.

Drawing as such differs from graphic printing processes in that a direct relationship exists between production and result. Drawing, in short, is the end product of a successive effort applied directly to the carrier. 

Whereas a drawing may form the basis for reproduction or copying, it is nonetheless unique by its very nature. So then, is it really bad form to draw from a reference? 

In fact, it is not bad practice to draw from a reference. But as an artist, you need to realize that using reference can become a crutch that you lean on too heavily. 

If you are trying to create an illustration that is an exact copy of a photograph, then using a reference to do so is fine.

It seems it would be much more rewarding to take a photo reference, then create a drawing or painting that uses the photo as a foundation then expands on it. While a drawing or painting that is as realistic as a photo is an impressive accomplishment, it will probably not prove as rewarding to you as an artist, as it would be to create something that fulfills your vision.

It seems it would be more fun to take a photo of a person or object and then change it. You could distort it, or throw in your own twist of abstract elements. You could also add colors that aren’t present in the photo. 

Drawing using a reference can be a great thing, but you shouldn’t restrict yourself to trying to simply recreate what you see. Try to make it your own.

Is learning to draw by copying other artists’ artwork a bad way to learn how to create art of your own? No, not necessarily. If copying the work of other artists helps you to gain a better understanding of how they drew something, or how they created a specific type of effect, then it is definitely not a bad thing. 

Many young artists are taught in school how to recreate the styles of famous artists, and it’s also common for students to actually recreate entire paintings. 

But, why would you want to learn to draw by copying the work of others? You do this so that you can learn the techniques that great artists have used, then you can branch out and expand upon it.

Copying the work of another artist just to learn how they achieved what they did is a good thing. It helps you to learn, and it develops the skills that you’ll need to one day take your art in your own direction. 

History is filled with artists who were heavily influenced by their peers. Being influenced by an artist, and learning to copy their technique is a highly effective way to learn and grow as an artist

But, artwork that relies heavily on photo reference can be stunning, or it can look very terrible. The main problem with using a photo reference and then trying to recreate what you see accurately is that any mistakes you make will be magnified many times over. 

If you are going to use photo reference heavily in your artwork, then you have two choices.

1. You can either spend a great deal of time painstakingly recreating what you see while paying close attention to detail.

2. You could branch out a bit and use some artistic license to change your drawing or painting into something that reflects your vision as an artist.

To see the most popular drawing sets just click here. 

Can I Use A Cell Phone To Collect Reference Images?

Technology has undoubtedly made our lives better in many ways, and as an artist, you would be foolish to not take advantage of what it can do for your artwork. You can go online and download stock photos as references, and there are absolutely times that this will be your best and maybe only option. 

You may be in a situation where you need a reference photo of an iconic location, and you do not live anywhere near that location. In this situation, using a stock photo is probably your best option.

But, whenever you have a chance to take your own photo for reference, you will probably be much better off. Making your own photo reference gives you the ability to get the angle of the photo exactly the way that you want it. It also lets you get the lighting and shadows perfect as well.

This will give you complete control over the photo, which will make your job easier when you are drawing it later.

When you are planning a drawing, you probably have a good idea of what reference you are going to need. But, you shouldn’t restrict your photo reference gathering to only times when you are planning a drawing. 

The beauty of current models of cell phones is that they have high resolution cameras, and you can store thousands of photos on them. There is absolutely no reason why you could not be taking reference photos all the time.

If you see something that interests you, then snap a picture of it. If you see storm clouds in the distance that look like they would look fabulous in a painting or drawing, take a picture. 

What about a beautiful sunset, or a unique building, or a funny-looking tree? Take a picture. Your phone lets you store an amazing amount of photos, so use it and take lots of pictures. 

You never know what you may end up needing in the future as a reference, so taking photographs all the time is very beneficial to you as an artist.

Recent Posts