Saturday, December 19, 2009

Process: Using References for your drawings

Below is Seal's animation layout drawing of a surfer's beach hut in Hawaii. She didn't know how to draw a beach hut or what specific shape made a beach hut different than any other dwelling. As an artist, Seal uses a lot of references to give her drawings believability. There is a delicate balance between being too reliant and copying a reference to being inspired and studying a reference while finding your own unique visual language.

Below is an example of a reference sheet that Seal used for the shape of the beach hut rooftop. Notice that Seal took on a similar shape, but not exactly. It is in the spirit of a beach hut. She simplified the hut so it would resemble more of an everyday average person's surfer hut and hangout, not necessarily to live in it. She also used references to get basic feel of the tiki and foliages that can be found in Hawaii.

Even Monkey, who is a lot more loose in his artwork, still uses reference. Even something as loose as his Panda Rage print was still based on photo reference.
Even though he had seen many pandas, Monkey wanted to make sure that he put the fur coloring in all the right places. Yes, pandas have a very distinctive color pattern on their fur, and if you don't follow that, you'll end up with something that may or may not read as a panda. However, the claws are exaggerated, but part of making art is experimenting on what features you can and cannot push and exaggerate or modify and have your visual message still come across.

Both Seal and Monkey use fun google image searches in order to find reference, but because they are usually copyrighted images, they only use them to get basic ideas of shapes, design patterns, and compositions. However, nothing beats taking your own photos, as then you can use the photos however you please, as you the photographer own the images. We highly encourage doing this as much as possible, and we often find that when drawing certain poses or angles, it's much faster to take a photo ourselves than it is to try and find that perfect photo on the web.

Have fun, and go get inspired (but don't copy!)

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