Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dreaming of Mice and all things Nice

091211001dreaming_cats Subtitle: is it cheating.

Recently a read a debate about the use of photoshop in art (I use GIMP, same thing). Specifically, it revolved around enlarging a photo reference in photoshop, then tracing it onto paper or canvas to skip the chore of sketching free-hand. Given my style, expression and goals, this would never be a useful technique, so I’ll decline to comment on that specific technique. My answer, in the debate, was that as long as it was a technique that you would proudly share with others, buyers, viewers, and other artists, it’s not cheating.

It did get the gears turning on my own ethics in art. I grew up with the idea that copying (using reference images) of anything anytime, was cheating. While I managed to learn to draw horses from memory pretty well, there wasn’t much progress beyond that, and while I still spend plenty of time drawing with no photo reference (sketches) I find a little goes along way, and I take lots of snaps to help me along.

Which brings me to “Dreaming of Mice…” This is from a small graphite ‘bed sketch’ I did quite some time ago (literally, sketched while in bed). It was, by necessity, drawn from the imagination (nope, there are no mirrors on my ceiling) and is a self-portrait of a cuddly companiable night with the cats. Because I found it evocative of companionship, I used it for my static page, Casual Connections, but I could, through GIMP, never manage to bump the pale graphite into a good contrasting black. So today, I decided to use technology differently. I took the scanned image and printed onto 8x10 paper. I made transfer paper with a graphite stick scribbled onto tracing paper, and transferred the image onto a fresh sheet of sketch paper, redid the lines in coloured pencil, Inktense watersoluble pencils and Pentel pocket brush, while trying to maintain the spontaneity and mood of the original. Now, I’ll have an enhanced version of the original using both high tech and low tech to get there.

I will leave the original version on casual connections for a day or so so that you can compare.

PS. Those cards I promised are going out tonight, lurkers included (actually, only lurker came forward, for the remainder, “Happy Lurking and Enjoy the Holiday Season” (and hopefully, this blog where lurkers are always welcome!))


Jennifer Rose said...

don't find that cheating if I am understanding it right, but I do find it cheating if someone just paints over a printed out photo. no work of any kind would go into that besides loading the paper. its sadly pretty common for people to do with photos to get realism :/

kaslkaos said...

I was holding off, hoping for, um, a wee bit more debate on that. Oh well. Jennifer, thanks for bravely chiming in.

Michelle (artscapes) said...

I know a lot of realists and illustrators that use projectors to work from drawings and photos - and I am OK with it because getting a general outline of your subject on canvas quickly can be an advantage on many levels - especially when it comes to time. An outline - traced or projected just gets quick proportions. I am not such a fan of those that trace a lot of detail. I would think that would be difficult on canvas anyway. I would also think a lot of money would need to be spent on the projector in order to avoid distortion. Frankly, I'm too cheap!

I have heard of people painting over a photograph in watercolour, and I do agree that is kinda missing the point.

kaslkaos said...

Thanks for chiming in Michelle. I actually didn't know about any of this until recently, so it's still an eye opener; I figure as long as no one is taking false credit (non-disclosure) all is good. I asked my husband, though, and he was horrified-a layman's opinion, but opinion non-the-less.
Since I like drawing small, I'll likely be using tech to get enlargements of my own work.

Chrissy said...

Hi Ingrid,
I suspect this is also a little like the photography debate. Many people spend hours working on photo's on photoshop.
This too can be an art in itself but I can spot a really "shopped" up image fairly easily and on a personal level, I prefer a good shot straight out of the camera or with some minor working, such as cropping etc. Somehow it seems more skilful, although I will on occasion tweak a little.
Art wise I don't ever trace or grid...I simply couldn't be doing with all that faffing around!My OH would also regard it as cheating.
Interestingly when I am drawing from photo's out and about, I have had people telling me that this is cheating and surely art should be from out of your head.
If that is the case I think all artists are copyists to an extent, after all most of what we do is an expression of a scene or something we have seen.
For myself, I also think it is ok to manipulate any of your own work as you wish after all it was yours in the first place.
However, I don't think it is morally right to copy another persons work, paint a photograph and so on.
Great subject :)

kaslkaos said...

Thanks Chrissy, interesting that some people think photo ref. is cheating...I was wondering where I got that idea from. It limited my learning so much before I began to ignore. The diff. with the trace/grid is that it doesn't help you learn, or express yourself.
I'm with you on the photoshopped beyond adjusting & cropping; unless it's obviously photoshopped and becomes a new work of art. Back to transparency again for me.

Michelle (artscapes) said...

In terms of Photoshop - I think the real skill in Photoshop is making it look like it was never Photoshopped. Digital capture, in my opinion, has not come close enough to film in regular consumer cameras to match it. Having used both digital and film, they are very different skills with similar terminology. All I needed was a lightmeter with film. The appeal of digital is the low cost and instant gratification. I cannot even get black and white film processed within 100 miles anymore.

I agree with Chrissy that using another person's photograph is not right. If you are going to use photo reference, they must be your own - especially if you are using the whole composition. Composition is most of the 'art'. The mechanics of the drawing and painting are the craft, particularly in realism - less so in the expressive forms.

kaslkaos said...

Thanks Michelle, makes me think the subject needs it's own post. Hmmm...since my blog is always just a monologue I'm not sure how to open things up. This is where real conversations over coffee would be so much nicer.


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