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Hello everyone,


I would like to press this in a blog entry, because I'm starting to repeat myself in my critiques for the Studies & Practices section.

You can't learn anything new from what's already in your head.

If you don't actually study something, you can hardly call the result a study. I feel as though the skill of observation is being underrated, which is surprising, because I'm not exaggerating when I say that over half of any artist's skill is due to their ability to observe, if not more. Therefor, if you do not train your observation skills and practice purely your drawing ability, you really won't make much progress.

So for any Serious Artist who would like to improve fast: whenever you draw something, find references first. Either in real life (which would really be best) or from the internet, make sure that you have examples ready and that you study what is necessary before (and while) you start drawing or painting. Compare what you are doing to your references regularly. It's only through observation that you will understand, and as a result, learn. Don't make guesses and rely on happy accidents; they don't happen often, and if they do you still won't have learned anything because you won't know what it was you did right!

Reference is king.

There is no shame in using references, nor is it cheating or "unprofessional". Even the greatest artists out there will look for examples if they aren't too sure about something, and the reason why they know so much in the first place is because they studied their subjects so well.

I will be sure to organize an observation challenge soon, in which every SA member can take part, to emphasize the importance of observation and intense studying.


~ Lhune
Founder of SeriousArtists
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:iconphantomstalker:
PhantomStalker Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2012  Student General Artist
I'm a bit late to this journal! I think your first bold statement goes with the use of bad references and i know I was not too long ago victim to that. And it sometimes ends with a 'screw it, I can't find what I'm looking for, GUESS.' Google is probably also not the best place to get good references but I remember some comment from some time ago on a critique on another members art about having a folder of references, organizing, down to very specific things, so I've recently thrown together something over the past few months, not many pictures, but at least good ones.

I'd like to make a suggestion and I don't know if this has been considered or not but I think it would be pretty rad if the group had some folders such as stock and good tutorials.And it can be time consuming trying to find something helpful. Stock on DA is usually pretty good and much more raw with better lighting than what would be found elsewhere. The links to websites you've also have been giving people are really good and I think it would be good to simply put a list of a bunch websites on the main group page or something just so everyone can see. It makes things easier for everyone, instead of having to repeat yourself and people will have fewer excuses for no improvement, you know like, well there's a website on the front page just for that and a bajillion good references in the clubs stock folder.

I can understand that the group is still fairly new so it will get frustrating until everything is completely laid out,people not sticking to the groups expectations, etc. Everyone is at a different level and people may be using references but don't know how to observe and apply it well. I remember the best thing I was ever told in my human figure class was to look at the negative spaces as well and not just the figure, observe how much distance was between certain areas was probably the one of the best tips from school. Or try to look at your art as little as possible when trying to draw from observation because when you draw and look at your picture, you're working from memory...My comic professor even had given a speech to the class one day, nobody knows how to draw everything, he was complaining about how he had to look up a bunch of light-posts for a panel because he didn't know what they look like. Even professionals need to use references.

I think the challenges will really be awesome and really good for everyone and get the club more engaged. I'll totally do them for sure! Trying to think of this whole club as a class. I'm liking the observation thing, start whipping everyone into shape :P Now I'm gonna go overboard and throw in my own ideas again xD Have everyone start with basics, maybe one week, let people choose from a few stock photos and try to draw them. People can learn from each other's mistakes because they're working on the same image for example, just like a normal art class, and over the weeks challenges will get harder, apply things learned from the week before, for more advanced people, make them do a little extra something...that sort of thing, but they would all stay on the same sort of topic...once a month, do a 'final project'.Asdfgh Okay, okay, I'll shut up xD I'm just exciting myself now.
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:iconjustkeepdrawing:
justkeepdrawing Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2012
Sheer truth.
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:iconpaintedcricket:
PaintedCricket Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
People seem to give a lot of crap to people who use references, though, what with "this work belongs to the photographer" and all. Well, I'm not for copying a photo and selling it as original work, but that is often not the case at all. I suspect is really killing the confidence of those who do reference.

I try to gather a good number of references and study them and figure out the underlying anatomy and how they move and how far they can move (you know that a dog doesn't usually pull a ridiculously flexible stunt, but they can... that's another thing people complain about often...). Still, there are some pictures I can't help but try to replicate, particularly the fun poses. Shouldn't have to fear being snapped and and generally being told what I already know over and over!

My personal experience hasn't included the previous two, though, that's just that I observe.

My personal experience is being told that "this is wrong", "it doesn't work that way", "that's an impossible pose" and "wings don't bend like that". Makes me want to bitch because these comments only happen when I copy the reference exactly! I like to draw the strange poses I find. The "possible" poses run out really damn fast.
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:iconlhuneart:
LhuneArt Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
People seem to give a lot of crap to people who use references, though, what with "this work belongs to the photographer" and all.

That only counts for people who actually copy the photograph and then put it online without giving credit, though. I use tons of references for studies which I don't even make public. You can use whatever you want if it's for your personal improvement, which is what my entire point was about; referencing is not just about making pretty pictures, it's about learning. Learning and understanding, which is so vital for creating good and convincing art.

Don't care too much about people's comments. Only care about those that are concerned with your improvement or encouragement, or those of the original artist of the piece (in that, if the photographer wants you to give credit or take the picture down, you obviously do listen to them). If someone tells you one of your poses is impossible and you know you referenced it, ask for clarification. What about it is impossible? Perhaps you misinterpreted your reference, or perhaps the person's knowledge of the subject isn't sufficient. I'm sure they don't say it's impossible for no reason and there's no harm in asking, right?
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:iconpaintedcricket:
PaintedCricket Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yeah, I've misinterpreted feathers a bit XD But that's not what I've been called out for. People hardly give it a look for long enough to notice a feather switch. When I notice, it's because I have a lot of time and sessions with the work--but that's because hardly ever finish anything, actually, I pretty much never go with the first piece I do. Not a good thing. It means that I never get things done... even when they are finished.

Anyways, interpretation errors are not what's pointed out. I did finally get one decent answer: "It looks strange in art form." So when I do get someone to sit with me for a decent while, it usually turns out that it's a matter of depth and not having a background causes a mental error. Or it could just be considered ugly and people interpret that as being "off" instead. Shading where shading shouldn't be seems to calm the mind, but I really don't like where it's going; but I guess that's a bad habit of mine.
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:iconamadoodles:
Amadoodles Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2012
References and observation definitely do make a difference. My old art teacher used to teach us to 'use references' and by that she meant trace things instead of drawing them ourselves :roll: I felt like that wasn't what I wanted to do and as a result was rather dumb and completely stopped using any sort of reference in protest to her method. Its only last year that i started using them again, and it definitely makes a difference. The improvement is exponential XD
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:iconlhuneart:
LhuneArt Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Tracing references is not training your observation though. It's a method that can be used to understand forms, or to lay a base to study the color and values of the piece. If you want to learn to observe however, you should draw only by looking and measuring your reference and then recreating it yourself.
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:iconamadoodles:
Amadoodles Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012
I couldn't agree more.
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:iconumbravita:
Umbravita Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2012  Student Digital Artist
I feel compelled to add --

Learn to understand your references. If you know how something works, why it works the way it does, your skill will improve much faster, than just mindlessly copying references. It's the difference between copying the way the light hits your subject, and knowing why it does so if you have to go without reference later you can do it.
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:iconinuryoko:
InuRyoko Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2012  Professional General Artist
I am really trying to work more on using references. If anything else it makes the sketching process go much faster because there is no guessing. I am still trying to wrap my brain around it, Its a little hard especially after my stroke but I am getting there. I don't have an eye for symmetry like I used to.

I am very grateful for this group because It has helped push me to use references more than I usually would have.

Thank you!
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:iconfirequill:
Firequill Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2012   Digital Artist
I'm glad you wrote this because I've been feeling similarly in that many times, what I can say in critiques tends to focus around finding and using proper references, studying from reality instead of making your best guess.

I really wish someone had given me that sort of advice earlier in my art journey because I was unfortunately one of the sorts of people who found drawing from photographs and stuff to be 'boring' and didn't really understand the value of it until much later. I probably would have improved dramatically back then if I'd known to study from photos/life, and try to understand the skeleton and muscle structure of animals similar to the dragons I was drawing, especially since I had a lot of enthusiasm and excitement I could have spent on art study at the time. (I'm a little more jaded now, heh.)

People definitely need to remember that using references isn't 'cheating', it's not 'unprofessional' and it's not 'uncreative'. It's necessary for learning. Your art is a representation of your understanding of the subject you've drawn. Your understanding of your subject isn't going to improve by you making wild stabs in the dark as to where this or that line should go or how that limb should bend, it improves when you take the time to sit down and study your subject and try to really understand why a crease or line or bump is where it is, what the muscles and skeleton are doing to create the external shape, why there's shadow in a specific location and not in another.

Art is pretty much a study of the visual world with many questions to ask and many mysteries to be solved, and the more of our own questions we can answer about why something looks the way it does, the better we get at depicting things believably in our art. It's not all just airy-fairy 'all art is perfect the way it is because it's art', because art is a study and something you can gain knowledge and understanding of through observation and then make conscious, educated choices to adjust or alter to achieve a particular effect.

Oh, and 'using reference' doesn't have to be limited to just taking a picture of a horse and drawing that exact horse in that exact pose. I'll often find references of an animal in a bunch of different poses so I can draw the same animal in a pose different to any of the photographs, using the photos to give my mind a more accurate 3D image of the animal than I would have been able to conjure up without the references. References can be good to use just to see how a particular body part looks too.

So yes! Reference and observe! And not just for anatomy, but for colour and landscapes and stuff too, since I feel I've talked about anatomy a lot and have been neglecting the importance of learning to paint believable environments by doing studies of landscapes. And good luck to everyone in their art studies!
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:iconumbravita:
Umbravita Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2012  Student Digital Artist
I was unfortunately one of the sorts of people who found drawing from photographs and stuff to be 'boring' and didn't really understand the value of it until much later.

I was exactly the same way. People told me "practice makes perfect", to draw and draw and draw... but nobody actually told me what kind of practice. Nobody told me to draw from life, to draw from reference, they just told me to "practice." So I kept practicing -- from imagination, which only had me feeling frustrated because improvement was minimal, if it happened at all. I was like this for years. I had a love/hate relationship with art because I couldn't get anything right, and it was a long time before I finally hit a breakthrough and actually started getting better. I would be so much better if I'd started drawing from life over seven years ago when I started.

God, how amazing I could be now.

It's not all just airy-fairy 'all art is perfect the way it is because it's art', because art is a study and something you can gain knowledge and understanding of through observation and then make conscious, educated choices to adjust or alter to achieve a particular effect.

Amen. I've always hated the attitude you quoted -- it doesn't help me get better. People confuse wanting to improve with self hatred, and that's not it at all! :iconfacepalmplz:

Good luck to you too!
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:iconumbravita:
Umbravita Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2012  Student Digital Artist
"This is an amazing journal entry I wish I could fav - OH HEY I CAN."

:clap: Amen.
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:iconlhuneart:
LhuneArt Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Hehe, yay for implementations that are actually useful? xD
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:iconkatepfeilschiefter:
KatePfeilschiefter Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
It's disappointing how some artists seem to fight using their eyes. Some people think of it as a mark of skill if they don't make use of observation or go without reference. But if they'd just relent and try it for once, their art would get so much better.
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:iconlhuneart:
LhuneArt Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Yeah, I've seen that happen all too often and never really understood it. It's largely a matter of pride though I think, people feel more accomplished if they can do something without help I guess.
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