View Full Version : Do you draw primarily from memory? Models? Reference photos?

08 August 2005, 06:16 PM
I found a very good article related to learning to draw from memory and so I thought I'd post it here for anyone who might be interested :Drawing From Memory (

I was also curious how many of you begin your projects: Do you draw from live models? Take photos? Tear up magazines? Or do you just work straight from memory? If you are working using one kind of method, do you wish you could work using a different method but preseantly can't because of time, lack of supplies, lack of models...etc.?

08 August 2005, 07:16 PM
I personally don't have the time to go to figure drawing workshops anymore ~ after art school, I drew mainly from master copies from books. It's partly for this reason that I started along with my friend Hong Ly the following thread: Open Figure Drawing Workshop ( Hong has taken some beautiful photographs of models which he has generously provided for use by the CGTalk community for the purpose of the serious study of figurative art only. Two new photographs will be provided on a bi-weekly basis (we're approaching the end of the first round now).

There is some great work being posted there, with the likes of Steven Stahlberg, Don Seegmiller (who wrote THE book on digital painting), and lesser known artists but very talented ones like zhuzhu and SpiritDreamer contributing some fabulous pieces. Definitely check it out! :)


08 August 2005, 08:16 PM
Well, photos are useful. You can work digitally on a desktop machine.

Also, photos helped me gain a comfort level with tools, since the source is unchanging. Ergo, you can take very exact measurements between points and make sure the angles are correct.

But live models so beat using a photo any day. I was suprised by how much easier it is for me to work from a live model. There's definitely more visual information with a live model (photos are very lossy), but gravity also really helps. A photo can be taken from many different angles, and it's a lot harder to get a sense of how the models supporting their own weight if the camera is at a funny angle.

I've tried memory drawing, and man, it's hard. I think it's great practice, too. There's no better way to get a sense of what you really "understand" rather than trying to just create it on a blank sheet.

So I try to keep up with using many different sources. Photos allow me to work more regularly. Live models allow me to focus on gesture and likeliness. Memory drawing helps me know my weaknesses with anatomy.

Oh, and the figure drawing workshop thread rules. Those are really nice photos. Fantastic for doing quick preliminary sketches for warming up. (... one of these days I'll post something... :P )

08 August 2005, 09:01 PM
I like an approach to drawing from the imagination that uses anatomical knowledge to "muscle up" a simplified skeleton. Robert Beverly Hale ( seems to think like that as he draws. So apparently does Glenn Vilppu (

Doug Jamieson takes this way of thinking and shares more of the details. In Draw From Your Head, he presents the system he taught for many years at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

People of all skill levels will benefit from this book. It's currently out of print, and can be hard to find and expensive to buy. I've heard prices for it ranging from $20 (for one lucky individual) to hundreds of dollars. I got mine recently for $50, and I'm pleased with my purchase.

08 August 2005, 09:16 PM
Thanks to all of you for your replies, and rebeccak special thanks for alerting me to that wonderful thread. CgTalk is HUGE, and I will be reading for many days to catch up ;) I'm struck by the talent and generosity of forum participants.

I can relate to expressed issues regarding time and the difference in working from life versus photos. I would say my own method of working most closely matches what jfrancis describes. I keep several notebooks full of concept sketches. When I choose one to develop I look through my reference collection to find anatomical details to match. This can sometimes be a headache. If I had a "dream" set up I would have a roster of about 6 models, males and females representing different body styles and age ranges that would be available at my beck and call, were completely professional, signed there release papers the same day, and worked for food :) (I'm really gifted at making Ramon noodles)...

Presently, I've been learning a 3D modeling program so that I can build my own detailed models to reference when I need to pin down a difficult pose. Bigger project than I first thought it would be, but I'm determined.

08 August 2005, 10:15 PM

Thanks, glad you like the thread! Indeed, they become massive... :D

Psst, btw, when my friend Hong Ly updates his website, he will be making lots of photographs of models available for FREE to artists who visit his website.

I just hope folks continue to post their work on the Open Figure Drawing Workshop thread, as we will be using photos from Hong's collection for that thread.

Look for it soon...I'll be posting a plug shortly as soon as he gets his new site up. ;)


08 August 2005, 10:37 PM
In the beginning of a project, I pretty much take everything I can find on the subject. Trying to analyze every little reference I have / can find while I sketch like crazy in my sketchbook.

If I sketch though, I usually don't use any reference. Most of the time you'll find me sitting on the local café going mad with a sketchbook.

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