Drawing From Life

I think that drawing from reference photos is fine but I also think
that beginners should draw from life as much as they can … even
exclusively at first. Drawing from life makes you interpret three
dimensional form into two dimensions, and that is a huge part of what
drawing is about. A photo has already done a lot of that work for you:
it has made the scene flat. Another thing you have to do while drawing
from life is figure out the value of each color. If you have a
computer, you can quickly make a color photo into a black and white
one. If you do, I can guarantee that most photos will look flat and
lifeless once the color is removed. That’s because the values of all
the colors have been made into their exact gray scale counter parts.

When you draw from life, you have to both see the true value of each
color and make a decision to draw it lighter or darker than it really
is. For example, in many lighting situations, a reddish brown horse
would almost disappear in a field of green grass if all color was
removed. As an artist, you need to make a decision about how to
interpret what you see. After you have had lots of practice at drawing,
you won’t even have to think about decisions like that. They will flow
from your pencil tip naturally and beautifully. To get to that point,
though, you have to do some work and drawing from life is part of the
process! I suggest that, if you are a beginner, you draw from life
whenever you can.

About Carol

I'm an artist, an accidental author, and lover of life. I grew up in Yorktown, Indiana, and I've been writing (and drawing) this website since 1999.
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