Above, we have a photo reference for a commission. Below, we have a beautiful internet schooling about the advantages of reference material for artists and their work. It’s actually a very good read, and rather educational! Fair warning- it’s long, but I promise you it’s worth it. So for all of you artists out there, especially those belittled by internet trolls who claim references are “cheating”, behold—
I realize the frustration of when you are unable to make the deadline. But this is a commission. From someone who likely wants your usual raw skill and finesse. And which does not even have a deadline.
What the hell.
For all the respect I have for you as an artist, this has put an extremely unpleasant stain on your work for me. I do not even know how much work of yours has been done this way, if at all. I do not preach purity as a total and utter standard, but this… Personal art, sketches and one-on-one commissions feel like something that should never see the light of tracing and such folly, they are a statement by the artist to exhibit the best of their talent and there is no reason to take shortcuts, only time.
I was going to commission you for a painting, sketches and maybe a few buttons. Now I dare not because I fear that you will do the same with those, even if I requested you not to, why should I trust you? I’ve never met you myself nor do I know anyone who is your friend.
I’d hate to sound like a preaching ignorant ass, yet I am by default ignorant to the situation thanks to the lack of information presented, but that’s what makes it look cheap and the easy way out. It’s possible they were snappy and said “One week! No less!” and it is just as possible that any of number of things could of happened, but the implication is this is someone looking for a piece of art, by you, not a stock photographer.
I should probably shut my mouth as I am not even an adult yet and you will likely out-logic and hurt me something deep (particularly since you are one of my biggest inspirations and drives to become better), and I will just sit there like the dog I am. But I feel fully inclined to speak about issues which make my innards churn. This is one of those.
allow me, a non-artist third-party observer, to jump in and address some points, because I’m pretty sure the original poster is going to be way more polite than necessary:
- we’re clearly looking at a piece which isn’t even sortof close to being finished, so gnawing on yourself going OH DEAR IT LOOKS CHEAP is ridiculous.
- photographic reference composites are an incredibly long-running artistic tradition, and are in fact mentioned as an established technical aid in the context of a specific (quite famous!) illustrator in the OP. this isn’t even in the same ballpark as “tracing”
- going OH WELL I USED TO RESPECT YOU AND I WAS *GOING* TO BUY STUFF BUT THEN I SAW THIS THING AND NOWWWW to an artist is like, massively insulting. especially when you readily admit that there’s a VERY STRONG POSSIBILITY that you don’t know what you’re talking about. shut up.
- holy shit, shut up. “blah blah, I dare not, blah blahhh verily, my inner churnings, milady.” I can practically hear your pipe and fedora. stop it, for the love of god.
if you’re as young (and presumably inexperienced?) as you say you are, you may want to sit down and actually listen to the people you respect as inspirations in the future rather than taking giant steaming shits on their stuff without the full story. maybe you will learn a new thing! THE POWER IS YOURS.
gosh, did demrishtihglsihg actually read the blog entry I linked to, in which I posted Robert McGinnis’ method of making his paintings? Because the moral of that story was: work smarter, not harder.
Allow me to blow your mind, “preaching ignorant ass”:
This is the work of famous pinup artist Gil Elvgren. He is renowned for his aesthetically refined pinup girl paintings which idealized the It Girl of his era(s). These are just three of his source-photo-to-finished-work side-by-sides, but there are dozens more of them here: http://ulkacurl.livejournal.com/212899.html
I don’t know if he used McGinnis’ method of projection, or other tracing, during his drawing, or if he just eyed his reference pretty hard, but I’m guessing it was a mixture of both. The precise working methods of these illustrators is hard to research, since most laypeople don’t give a shit, so they don’t write books about it, and sometimes the artists aren’t willing to tip their hands. Likely because the cries of “cheap!” will ring out from people who think photo reference taken in the artists’ own studios is “cheating”.
Everyone who’s interested in illustration is probably already familiar with Franz Mucha. He produced much of his work at the turn of the century, when photography was still just getting popular. There must have been a brief period of ease and happiness for illustrators, after photographic reference suddenly became available, but before it was practical or stylish to replace illustrations in publications with photographs. Lucky.
Anyway, in the second example you can see Mucha has overlaid the reference photo with an enlarging grid, another old-as-the-hills method that people like to shit on by calling “cheap”.
Here’s another cheap art trick, also using a grid:
Albrecht Durer, Draughtsman Drawing a Recumbent Woman. 1525
See the date on that? 15-motherfucking-25, dude. If you’re like me, you’ve always seen this image without the accompanying title, and wondered what the fuck was going on there. Primitive gynecology? A monk so embarrassed by his tryst with a local dairymaid that he makes her recline on the other side of a confessing screen? The mind reels. What’s actually happening—as the title made apparent, finally—is that this dude is straight up cheating at art. He’s drawing the intensely foreshortened form of the woman—with clinical precision—using a tool that would come to be known as the Durer Grid. As on her grid, so on his grid. He proceeds square by square, making sure the placement of lines and forms is accurate, thereby conquering one of the most difficult subjects an artist will ever face: the foreshortened human nude.
Wait, it gets worse.
You know Johannes Vermeer, right? Guy who did Girl With a Pearl Earring, and all those incredibly realistic, depthy, beautifully-painted pictures of interior Dutch life in the 1600s? Yes, well. Prepare to put “an extremely unpleasant stain” on all his work:
This is a camera obscura, one of many different designs on the same principle. It’s essentially a backwards projector: the lens takes in whatever it’s pointed at, and then projects it on a surface where it can be traced. There is no hard documentary evidence that Vermeer used such a thing, but he was friends with a lot of artists who did use them, and had the sort of acquaintances from which he could easily get the parts. The intense perspective in his paintings was totally unknown at the time, and so clinically precise that the likelihood of his using an obscura is strong. The BBC says:
For more than a hundred years, it has been suggested that the great 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer made use of the camera obscura as an aid to painting. The camera obscura was the predecessor of the photographic camera, but without the light-sensitive film or plate. It is well established that in the 18th century some other famous painters employed the device, the best-known being Canaletto, whose own camera obscura survives in the Correr Museum in Venice. The English portrait painter Sir Joshua Reynolds owned a camera; and the device was widely used by landscape artists, both professional and amateur, up until the invention of chemical photography in the 1830s.
That’s nothing, though. Da Vinci probably used one, too.
Let’s fast-forward to the cheap tricks of the modern day, starting with photographic retouching.
You may be familiar with Richard Avedon, the renowned art and fashion photographer. This is one of his prints, marked up for extensive dodging and burning, as well as some airbrushing. There’s a public assumption, particularly by non-artists but sometimes by artists as well, that once you become “good enough”, you stop having to use “tricks” like retouching.
What makes you “good enough” is learning those “tricks” in the first place.
In terms of “ideological purity”, this:
Joan Crawford, by Geoge Hurrell, date unknown (mid-century)
Is no different from this:
unknown photographer/model, likely early 2000s
Is no different from this:
Gil Elvgren’s reference photos again
Is no different from this:
Photograph of Young Queen Victoria vs. Idealized Painting of Young Queen Victoria (notice eyes, nose, skin, lack of jowls, etc), ~1800s (note also that young Victoria looked exactly like Jodie Foster)
Allow me to use an example from the cutting edge of modern commercial art/illustration: environmental concept art. Particularly urban environmental art.
In this video from the Massive Black Concept Art tutorial DVDs, renowned concept artist Whit Brachna explains his working method for making haunting environmental concept art. When I first watched this DVD I was almost angry, because Brachna did something so incredibly clever that it felt like he was “cheating”: he doesn’t painstakingly draw out his industrial environment using perspective grids and horizon lines and so on. Nope, he builds it in Google Sketchup, then paints on top of the 3d model. And if he’s anything like the other concept artists I know, he probably didn’t build all the individual model assets himself, either. Sketchup has a massive library of free-to-use models of everything from people and animals to tanks and guns to entire buildings, and professional illustrators use those things, buddy.
You know who else paints on top of 3d models? Lots of people.
This guy, the artist Randis, whose work you have probably already seen. The image above really made the rounds. Which it should, because it’s quite good.
Let me tell you something else: the professionals poke a lot of fun at the smug wannabes on the various digital art forums who like to strut around crowing about nonsensical bullshit they think is important: it’s common to see art in these forums posted with notation like “this only took me 5 hours in Photoshop CS5, no ref”, as if that’s something anyone should be bragging about. You mean you chose to do everything the hard way, sacrificing the quality of the finished product to some miscalibrated internal “ideal” of how a drawing “should be” done? That’s not something to trumpet about, dude. And the pros are making fun of you for it. Snickering “no ref” when talking about art was a surefire injoke amidst students and faculty.
And this is why:
Frank Gutbrod is an artist on DeviantArt, and has this to say about the example above:
This is how much impact the use of reference makes. Only two days ago i would be looking at the upper pictures hand and think stuff like ” Well, this is a pretty good hand for my standards. Pretty much one of the best i did so far from mind/imagination/memory. I like it.”
Sweet stupid me.
The lower picture shows what i was and still am working on today while using some photo reference I shoot earlier the evening.
It’s just miles and leagues beyond the other one. And this is even though there are still tons of mistakes in it.
Looking at the other thing I dont really think it is good work anymore. I only feel the urgent wish to rework it and bring it on level with the new work.
Will you always NEED to use ref, for every picture? No, of course not. And oddly enough, the more you use ref to start with (particularly drawing from living models), the less you’ll have to, later on. You draw enough real bodies and eventually they form a sort of visual library in your head that can be called upon at any time, meaning that picture-making in general becomes much easier.
Do I know of any working professional artists or illustrators who work totally without reference at all times? No. All of them use it, for various things, at various times, for their own reasons, to get the best image they can get. Robert McGinnis could draw, paint and sketch plenty good without his projection method, which is why his stuff doesn’t look stilted or unsure. He uses his “cheap tricks” to make his shit flawless, adjusting the reference as he goes to suit the picture he’s trying to make. If you think there’s anything wrong with that, you’re an idiot.
Okay so, where do I draw the line? When are paintovers and tracing and reference actually a bad thing? I say, use your own photography or photography that has been specifically donated for the purpose. And if your reference is not your own photography, make sure you’re using it in such a way as the original photograph is not recognizable, but becomes part of a continuous gestalt within the image.
For the OP image, I set up my model and took dozens of photos of him based on the thumbnail the client had chosen. That’s what they fucking hired me for: to give them the best painting it was in my abilities to give, in a reasonable timeframe, that adhered to their aesthetic wishes. Photographing models for reference is a tool, and it’s a tool you better learn to embrace if you really want to move past the “terrible art” you claim to create in your Tumblr bio.
I’m going to close with a series of further examples from your own blog.
This is a digital paintover of a TF2 screenshot, probably from Gmod. It’s still a good image! The irony of you having posted this with the words “Oh my yes.” not long before you freaked out about my reference photos is not lost on you, I hope.
Desolee is one talented painter and consistently turns out good fan art, particularly of Spy. But they posted a step-by-step recently that demonstrated their consistent use of photo reference (which is obvious, just looking at their work), and that reference is how they get this realism. You should take a look at it. You might learn something.
Then there’s this thing, which is clearly a very basic vectorization of three photographs: meat, tank and naked woman. However, you seem to have approved of it when you posted it.
Your blog only started recently so that’s all I’ve got so far. But you also called my batmans “crappy” which was pretty rude!
In conclusion, professional artists use reference. They use Photoshop, projectors, tracing, Liquify, Google Sketchup, Gmod, and whatever the h*ck else they need to use in order to make the goddamn picture. You do them, and yourself, a disservice by thinking otherwise.
"Game Story," one of the most comprehensive art exhibitions dedicated to videogames, is like a walk down memory lane for fans, featuring everything from "Pong" to "Pac-Man" and "Sonic the Hedgehog." But its presentation in Paris’s Grand Palais, one of the temples of contemporary art in the French capital, is an effort to show that what many still consider a hobby for geeky teenagers has grown into an art form."Despite being an important part of contemporary culture, videogames hadn’t yet found their place in museums," says Mr. Clais, an ethnologist and curator of the China section at the Musée Guimet, France’s national museum for Asian arts, who wrote his doctoral thesis on videogames and computers.
And why shouldn’t video games be on display in museums? They’re about visuals, just like other forms of art. But, they are unique in that they are also about experience, just as they are about you. You, the player, and the experience you have in-game is one so unique to our medium. Other art forms can take you places and give the viewer an emotionally profound experience, but in a video game you are a huge part of that experience. You are the catalyst for all that happens. Decisions weigh on your shoulders. As a developer, we are responsible for creating and deciding on the kinds of experiences we want to expose to you. How can something this deep and all-encompassing, something this culturally significant not be considered an art form?
Modeling/UVing/Texturing Tips & Tricks.
Freelance Artist Alan Van Ryzin was invited to SCAD a couple of weeks ago by the Game Design department to give a class on modeling and texturing. The whole class ate up an entire Saturday— 10AM-3:30PM —but it was well worth it. The class was full of useful information and great tips on modeling/texturing for games.
For anyone interested in the notes from the class, you can download them in .pdf format here.
Alan Van Ryzin has made props for titles such as Homefront, F.E.A.R 3, and Mass Effect 2 & 3.
Why did nobody tell me about this palette?!
I felt this had to be shared. If you’re any sort of Photoshop user that searches online for color palettes, then your life will be enlightened. Much, much love to whoever discovered this!
In at least Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign CS5 (maybe other programs/versions too), if you go to Window > Extensions > Kuler, you get a palette with preset color palettes that compliment each other, as well as a tool to help you make new ones. Then you can save it to the Kuler list, or to your Swatches palette.
Art vs. Copyrights
I found this from austinkleon—
This is an absolute must-read account by Andy Baio, who was threatened with a lawsuit by Jay Maisel, photographer of the Miles Davis photo onKind of Blue, which Baio had transformed into pixel art for the cover of his 8-bit tribute, Kind of Bloop. Goddamn terrifying murky waters of fair use that some of us swim in.
Go read it: it’s every artist’s nightmare.
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about “fair use” on the Internet. Everyone thinks they know what fair use is, but not even attorneys, judges, and juries can agree on a clear definition. The doctrine itself, first introduced in the 1976 Copyright Act, is frustratingly vague and continually being reinterpreted.
Four main factors come into play:
- The purpose and character of your use: Was the material transformed into something new or copied verbatim? Also, was it for commercial or educational use?
- The nature of the copyrighted work
- The amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
- The effect of the use upon the potential market
…In his influential paper on fair use, Judge Pierre N. Leval wrote, “Factor One is the soul of fair use.” Stanford’s Fair Use Center asks, “Has the material you have taken from the original work been transformed by adding new expression or meaning? Was value added to the original by creating new information, new aesthetics, new insights and understandings?”
Austin Kleon is right— copyrights are a huge deal for artists. At school, if they suspect you of copyright infringement or plagiarism, you are put through a full-blown investigation and can potentially be kicked out. We walk a very fine line when using or referencing materials, and need to take extra carenot to get into any legal trouble.
It’s horrible how Andy was treated when he meant no harm to the photographer or his work. There certainly wasn’t any malicious intent where the material used is concerned. However, reading an article like this really makes you aware of how much the legal system can utterly crush your plans and aspirations.
I have to be careful while I work on my game projects. And to the rest of you: good luck with your artistic dreams, and be careful.
And The Results Are In!
The Smithsonian Institute’s upcoming exhibit called The Art of Video Games is set to explore video games as an artistic medium. The exhibit will showcase 80 different video games that have been chosen by the public via voting that ended on April 17th, 2011.
And now I am pleased to announce that the winners are in!!
Here is a link to a .pdf file with all of the winners!
I definitely encourage you all to reblog and spread the news…this is an incredible day for the gaming industry.
Art of Video Games: Winners To Be Announced!
In early April I wrote a post about the Smithsonian Institute’s upcoming Video Game Exhibition, set for March - September 2012. They asked that the public vote on which games they wanted to see featured in the exhibit.
Well, I just got the email saying the results will be announced LIVE at 1PM (EST) on May 5, 2011 at artofvideogames.org. If you voted, login to see the live webcast.
For those of you who didn’t vote, you can still catch the webcast the day of the event on Ustream. The password for the stream is bosslevel.
The list of games will be posted following the event, and don’t worry— I’ll be sure to either link to the article or list them myself right here! If you voted, thank you very much as you’ve contributed to the next step for our medium. Don’t forget to tune in to the webcast on Thursday!