Why

Why a drawing faces from life blog

I believe that observational drawing from life is of profound importance to being a representational artist. To observe a fellow human in three dimensions and try to understand in a visual sense, who they are, what they look like in a two dimensional drawing is the essence of representational art. Using your intellect and humanity to bring to life in drawing, another’s story, personality or emotion; to convey the human condition, is a worthy goal.

Much of the drawing I see today in student notebooks and online posts from around the world reflect the popular styles of graphic novels, comic books and anime. While they range from simple to complex, dull to beautiful, in general I find them homogenous and boring. They offer the same solutions to the complex problems of drawing. The stylized faces and forms are caricatures, born from formulas, character types, and animation styles, which are constructed rather than observed. They lack the insight, detail, personality, the kind of description that only comes from closely observing and drawing another living person.

I see a lot of drawing done from photographs. I can almost always recognize a drawing done from a photo. It looks rendered, mechanical, flat and has little life. It is a seductive solution to draw from photographs rather than from life. Pictures of faces are easily available and they don’t move like live people tend to do. I understand that to use a photograph as source material can be a necessity. If you are interested in drawing the Queen of England there is little chance that she will sit for you. Action poses or gestures such as someone laughing, dancing or playing ball could require a photograph. But photographs are a poor replacement for drawing from life.

Remember, that a photograph, unless you take the photo, is someone else’s vision. It has been composed, lighted and shot by someone else. I am not commenting on the copyright issues, but by rendering someone else’s image you are limiting yourself to their vision, you are missing the opportunity to see and create an original statement about what you see and who you are.

My hope with this blog will help artists interested in observational life drawing. (See How)