Monday, October 22, 2012

Photography, PhotoShop and drawing

Now I know how I've gone on about how useful photography can be to an artist, as a tool to record stuff. And I've seen some wonderful artwork created through using - read 'doctoring' - a photograph using PhotoShop, by Ken Coleman to name just one artist.

But I think you need to be careful if you're going to use other people's photographs as visual references for your drawings. Why? Because if they have been photoshopped, they might have been photoshopped badly. I regularly see stuff up on Facebook about badly photoshopped images that elongate a model's body to outlandish proportions, make her legs look so skinny you couldn't imagine her standing on them without them breaking, and the classic one that has parents of teenage girls really worried, the woman of normal, natural proportions photoshopped into someone that looks like they died of starvation, or are very close to it.

It's easy to miss these things at first, especially if you don't really look closely at publications or websites in which such photos normally feature. The thing is, using PhotoShop is also something of an art form, and if you don't get it right, it can look so very wrong. Of course, you can have great fun with it and give a model an extra hand or finger, or have a crocodile leaping out of water onto a moving boat, but if you're picking photographs from magazines to work from for paintings, you'd want to take a very good look at them. Sometimes what seems 'odd' turns out to be very strange indeed.

There really is no substitute for live-drawing with a model, I think. Yes, people come in all shapes and sizes, and in different proportions, but you really appreciate it when you draw the same model several times in different poses. I suppose you could say there are 'believable parameters' when it comes to the proportions of the body, and indeed both PhotoShop and plastic surgery could challenge this, but if you want to base your drawing or painting on a real, and more to the point, believable body, then you need to work from a real and believable subject.

I suppose if you have spent many years studying the human figure in life-drawing sessions, or indeed studying anything that's based on 3-dimensional objects around you with a view to reproducing it in 2D, then you would be less likely to miss any PhotoShop-created physical anomalies and end up using your own skill in reworking the visual reference into something you're making. I think we are back to the eye, and one's own innate judgement in creating a composition that 'works'.

Taking badly photoshopped images might actually be an interesting exercise for an art project, if you're one of the people that likes to take things and turn them around and stand them on their heads - why not? One of the great things about art is that you can take something and transform it into something totally different. But that is another project, for another blog. 

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