Recently on this site’s Facebook page, an artist named Tony asked about why it was important to draw from life, since what he’s doing is cartooning (drawing in his own stylized way). I explained as best I could, but wanted to expound a bit on the subject.
Art students are often told to “draw from life” (as opposed to drawing from photos, or your imagination) because our art should, even if it’s highly stylized, emulate life. You can’t make a convincing “cartoon hand” if you don’t know what a real one looks like. Your stylized, artistically modified drawings look more convincing (even if they are not remotely “realistic” anymore) when you understand what you’re stylizing.
First, the “drawing from life” part. (As contrasted with drawing from photos.)
I drew a lot of portraits from photos, starting when I was a young teenager. I’d draw my favorite actors and actresses. (Like a lot of kids do.) That meant drawing from photos. I became pretty good at it, for my age. I occasionally drew from life (my friends would pose for me) but not nearly as much as from photos.
When I first took a Life Drawing class (drawing the figure) in college, it was extremely difficult at first. A serious adjustment, and a grave blow to my ego at the beginning! I had always assumed that I drew pretty well, because I was doing a decent job of it with photos. But I still had a long way to go in developing my drawing skills. Continue reading Why Drawing From Life (and Studying “Realism”) is Important
I write this for all the kids (of any age) who get grief from family members, loved ones, or anyone else for being a geek who does “fan art.” They act like fan art is a dead end, and that you’re some pathetic nerd and not a “true” artist. Well, come on. I think they should stop sucking the joy out of life.
I did fan art. Sometimes I still do. When I was a teenager, everyone did! I got all kinds of disapproval for it, especially from my mom, who once said she’d prefer I’d quit art completely rather than continue with that nonsense. (She didn’t really mean it, but I heard it nonetheless!)
I’ll always consider fan art a good thing in my life. Whether or not it was “artsy” enough or serious, I don’t care. I refuse to be ashamed of it. Due to my involvement in fan art, I loved art at a young age. Because I was deriving enjoyment from it, I did more of it. I even sold art to fellow geeks, also while still at a young age. It was great and it helped my confidence and self-esteem.
Here’s an example of some fan art I did way back. It was a cover for a “fanzine” (pre-internet publication with fanfiction). One of my friends kinda-sorta commissioned me into doing it. Thank you to the person who posted their picture of it on the Internet. I’d lost my own scan of the artwork.
I don’t consider that time of doing fan art to be wasted time. What I learned from my years of doing that kind of art, easily translated into other less geeky types of art. Even types of art that my mom approves of! Who would have thought?