Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Note on Using Reference

Maybe most of you can relate to this story:
         5th grade, and all your classmates know you are the kid that can 'draw'. You have a little sketch book of drawings of Pokemon and other random things you think are cool. You take pride in your drawings and you kinda let yourself feel like: "hell yea, you know what? I CAN draw" Then one day you are put on the spot, someone asks you if you can draw them a Tiger. You try to say you don't draw in front of people but everyone crowds around because they want to see how you draw a tiger. So you try to draw a tiger and the damn drawing ends up looking like freakin kitty cat.

          Why is it that when you are at home laying stomach down and you have a ripped page from a magazine to look at and copy from, you can draw anything! But when you try to draw from your mind and have nothing for reference all your drawing skills disappear?

          Well in my opinion: When one hasn't developed a photographic memory, their mind usually defaults to cliches and generic drawing solutions. While developing as artist, free style drawing is usually their weakest area. People like drawings that breath life and remind them of the real thing. Even if the drawing isn't perfectly photo-realistic, if it has enough detail from your reference, people will accept it. This is probably why life/figure drawings or copied drawings usually get a lot of wow's, ooo's, and Ah's. They were drawn from life/something real and they have details in them that regular people wouldn't think of including into a drawing. Even caricatures and portraits are specific enough where the viewer accepts the drawing enough where they start to invent personalities and feelings to associate with the image.

         Every artist uses reference in one way or another. Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Norman Rockwell and even Disney artists! They all use reference. (they actually used live models, they would sketch them and then use their sketches as reference while working on their final painting) But using reference doesn't mean 'to copy', reference is to be used as a starting point and it should always be improved upon.

           Here are a few images from the 1950's I found on the internet. You will see the reference in black and white and the finished painting on the right. You can see the photo the artist used for their foundation and if you study it closely you can see the specific changes the artist made in the final piece of art. Use this chance to test your observational skills and see how many changes you can spot between the reference and the final painting. If you want a greater challenge: Try to figure out WHY the artist made each change.

ARMS: The artist chose to switch the girls arms so that the other one held up the sheet.
LEGS: are more vertical up and down than in the photo. Forces the legs to line up with the vertical arm above them. which makes a line that leads you to the face of the girl. And the face in turn, leads your gaze to the mirror. You might think I'm over thinking it but these are just some of the elements that make a drawing stand out from the rest.
LEANING towards the mirror rather than away. 
EYES: in the reflection her eyes were changed to look down to bring focus on the tan line.
MIRROR: shape is changed. A square is too masculine! A circle is a much more 'softer' shape to compliment the female.

HEAD:Turning the head screen right forces a twist in the body/neck that is visually more interesting than having all the main body parts orientated in the same direction.
LEGS: Are tucked in to simplify the silhouette 
ARMS: Are changed so that the object's silhouette do not compete with the woman's silhouette. The box top is brought in closer to the body.
PILLOW: It's a better decision to tuck it in behind her so that she 'leans forward' more towards the viewer 

Very little difference here

         Sometimes the artist will really like their reference and literally copy it. *GASP* ...and it's not a bad thing! *DOUBLE GASP* Your audience will never see your reference so all they know is that these drawings/paintings have come straight out from your imagination. It might feel like cheating but it's not. When all is said and done it is still your work and your decisions that we see. Keep in mind this is not the right and only way to use reference. I urge you to find your own (but similar) process for using reference. Stay away from stiff character designs and generic poses!! 

Monday, January 13, 2014

INSPIRATION: Letters From Creative Minds


Leonid Afremov - 'Winter Park' (A painting that inspires me)
      A new year equals new beginnings and with new beginnings one usually needs new inspiration. I'm going to share that with you today something I found while ago that I found very inspiring.

      Sometimes we get inspired from other peoples work, and sometimes we get inspired by how they think! When you learn how a professional looks at a problem or thinks about life's obstacles, it can be educational as well as inspiring. Here I have 8 artists and their letters. Their letters are from two websites called 'Animator Letters Project' and 'Letters of Note'. Both of these sites have an awesome collection of letters are worth reading! Do a quick search and check them out.


Aaron Hartline - Animator The full letter can be found here
"When I took a tour of Disney right out of high school, I showed the guide/animator my work. She said, "It's easier to get a job as a professional basketball player than getting an animator position at Walt Disney Studios... I knew if I worked hard then one day... some day.. I could do it! I took me 14 years of trying but it happened."

Steve Vai - Professional Guitarist The full letter can be found here
"The desire to play an instrument must come from with in you. You should not waitr a letter or an approval from anyone else to decide that you should play. Either you don't want to or you have no choice because your heart compels you to."

Ray Bradburry - Author (Fahrenheit 251) The full letter can be found here
"Fall in love with the future! I did just that. And after that never listened to one damn fool idiot who doubted me! what did I learn? To be myself and to never let others, prejudiced, interfere with my life. Kids do the same. Be your own self. Love what YOU love."

Austin Madison - Animator the full letter can be found here
"Work through the 97% of murky abysmal mediocrity to get to that 3% which everyone will remember you for!"

Christopher Reeve - Actor (Superman) The full letter can be found here
" I am not going to preach to you that you should stay in school. I do want to tell you that you can do ANYTHING you want in this life if you have the determination and drive to make it happen."

(me!) -Animator The full letter can be found here
"As long as you take your desire and never stop improving your technique, you will never be less than what you want. It's not about where you end up, what studio you work at, how much money you make. It's whether or not you are happy with what you are creating." 

      The best letters I have ever read are by Rainer Maria Rilke. If you ever need to be inspired sit down under a tree or lie on your bed and take your time through her 10 letters. I read them once a year just to never forget them. she wrote these letters to a young man who was 27 who wanted guidance and a critique of some of his poems.
read all ten letters here

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Art Spotlight: Sculptures


Art through Shadows
        I came across this a while ago and it's too great not to share. This art has no practical purpose and I love it. Art doesn't need to entertain or help you out in your daily life, art can be made to just simply challenge your imagination for a moment. It takes time to create something like this and if it wasn't for the patience of artists.. the world would be quite boring indeed.

Real Life is Rubbish, 2002 Mixed Media

       Tim Noble and Sue Webster make piles of discarded wood, welded scrap metal, broken tools, cigarette packets soda cans and piles of trash to create amazing images! Every piece is thoughtfully put in it's place taking into consideration it's shadow on the wall. From piles of nothing come recognizable figurative images that capture your interest for more than just a moments glance. More art from these artist  can be seen on their website: TIM NOBLE AND SUE WEBSTER

Dirty white Trash (W/Gulls), 1998;
6 months worth of artists' trash, 2 taxidermy seagulls

Wild Mood Swings, 2009-10
2 wooden step ladders, and discarded wood

The Original Sinners, 2000; Replica fruits, bark, moss, bowls, fishing wire, cooking oil, metal

She, 2004 Welded scrap (Part 1 of 2 from a diptych)

        Remember that anything can be made into art! Art doesn't have to confine itself to film and drawing. I posted this because it is a good example of unlikely medium. Ask yourself, "Would you call these shadows Art?" I hope it challenges you to accept things out side the box and influences you to once in a while step outside the box as well. Keep in mind that just because a method or something isn't popular doesn't mean it's not worth anything. Let your mind wander and explore things you once thought stupid or a waste of time, you might find new value where there was none before.