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Old Friday 17th June 2005, 20:25   #1
nightheron28
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Going from sketch to finished painting

Hello,

Was wondering if there is a book or a class I can take to learn to more effectively take a sketch to a painting. It seems that I dont get enough details in my quick sketches to produce a finished painting that I am happy with. It is hard for me to visualize how feathers should lay or look in a certain position so as to keep the bird looking natural.

I have looked at John Bubsy's book on Drawing Birds, but I find it lacking, it seems it is more inspirational than instructional. Although he himself is a wonderful and powerful artist who I respect (in case hes on this board reading this, I really do think you are remarkable, just didnt find your book that helpful). He just kind of says practise, well I dont need a $30 book to tell me that, and practise helps to a certain extent, but I think one needs technique as well and if your not developing a technique or talented enough to develop a uniqe technique to help you paint well then what do you do? You usually look for quidance from others who seem to excell in this area.

Thanks for any suggestions.
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Old Monday 20th June 2005, 04:44   #2
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Hello Nightheron28,
I don't know if this will answer your question or not, but I'll share with you, my technique.
You didn't mention in what medium you use, I use watercolor mostly. Nearly all my paintings begin with a drawing, a full complete drawing, not a sketch. I then will use tracing paper to transfer my image from sketch book to paper. When I was in school, I would have gotten cracked if I had pencil on the paper, but not so nowadays....BUT I don't like to SEE the graphite, so I only transfer as little as possible, usually the base image (you can transfer every line and dot if that is what you need to get to what you want). But, I use that drawing as a constant guide. It already has my value scale and details done. If I draw or sketch too much I loose interest, hence the transfer method. I will also use detail and close photos or life to go with my drawing so that my painting comes alive. Parts of my work is more detailed oriented (those are the ones I have drawn out), and parts are relaxed and expressionistic. If I want detail, once I transfer, I go light to dark (have to with watercolor), technique comes and is improved with practice... so practice, starting simple and relaxed. If I have a good drawing, my hand and brain tend to remember the details better, practice allows the paint to work for me to get those details.
Here are a couple older examples that started off with me messing around with pen and ink....I saw a big tree and twigs....I had already done a drawing of a couple recent favorites to my yard....can you guess who? Hope I was able to help a bit. Oh, my best learning is to watch another artist. If you have a local art center, as most communities do, check them out and see if they don't have classes in the medium you enjoy. That will expand your own techniques, inspire you and keep you motivated. The subject matter is up to you...if you like birds...draw them, lots of them. In watercolor, the better the drawing, the better the detail in a painting.
shelley
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Old Monday 20th June 2005, 06:23   #3
Phil Davis
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nightheron28
Hello,

Was wondering if there is a book or a class I can take to learn to more effectively take a sketch to a painting. It seems that I dont get enough details in my quick sketches to produce a finished painting that I am happy with. It is hard for me to visualize how feathers should lay or look in a certain position so as to keep the bird looking natural.

I have looked at John Bubsy's book on Drawing Birds, but I find it lacking, it seems it is more inspirational than instructional. Although he himself is a wonderful and powerful artist who I respect (in case hes on this board reading this, I really do think you are remarkable, just didnt find your book that helpful). He just kind of says practise, well I dont need a $30 book to tell me that, and practise helps to a certain extent, but I think one needs technique as well and if your not developing a technique or talented enough to develop a uniqe technique to help you paint well then what do you do? You usually look for quidance from others who seem to excell in this area.

Thanks for any suggestions.
Hi ,
When you're out sketching birds, I find you rarely have time for all the details...birds fly away...normally just as you get the sketchbook out.Because of this I always take a mini cam and film the bird then sketch.That way when you get home you have a reference.

Phil.
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Old Monday 20th June 2005, 14:56   #4
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Phil Davis,

Is that leagal in the eyes of an art community? I guess I would have trouble justifying the potential sale of a panting if I didnt draw or paint the thing from my mind. Using a photo or video just seems like cheating to me somehow and makes me feel less talented and not worthy of selling my artwork.

I dunno could just be my own hang-up though.
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Old Monday 20th June 2005, 15:40   #5
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Holy Moly--get over your hang up (due to this being the computer, inflections are lost, and I in no way am being mean or disrespectful, just amazed). There isn't an artist around that doesn't use life, photos (that THEY have taken or used other photos for definitive detail) along with their creativity to do drawings, paintings, sculpture.... Our minds have the big picture, they don't have the minute details you may need to incorporate into your work. When I travel I take a sketch book and a camera. The film I go through is amazing. Different angles of the same thing. One for perspective two for accuracy and three for color/composition. I have to admit, I don't 'stop, drop and sketch' but I do start drawings that I will later finish with aide of my photos. I don't do well out in the field (plein aire) I am more studio, so I have to use my photos for reference. When I transfer a drawing from my sketchbook, which is my work, to watercolor paper or canvas, it is still my work. If you choose to copy someone elses art...like exactly their photo, or say a masters painting, then you are doing so for practice or learning purposes. Without proper credit, you would not be able to sell that art. Relax your mind a bit and get involved with your local art center communtiy, I promise you it will only motivate you along.
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Old Monday 20th June 2005, 20:28   #6
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I'm with Shelley, even 'copying' a photo you are doing it your way. The chances of creating an exact copy are extremely slight so the result is always your creation. Holbein, back in the time before photography, painted portraits on glass in front of the subject. Are you going to condemn a lot of the old masters for using similar methods? A lot of galleries would be rather empty. Durer, Van Gogh, both used frames to 'copy' the perspective of scenes. If nothing else it would improve your drawing technique and observation.

Having said that I did hear of one master, I think it was Da Vinci? who got his students to paint in one room while the subject was in another part of the building. That would be very useful to help improve bird identification, and keep fit.
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Old Tuesday 21st June 2005, 05:20   #7
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Sorry if I rubbed some elbows with my comments. I really appreciate all of this feedback though. In my area we have truly talented peopel who claim to draw birds from their mind and I guess I want to be competitive with them. I should learn to realize my limitations and get along with mediocrity.

Thanks.
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Old Tuesday 21st June 2005, 20:07   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nightheron28
Sorry if I rubbed some elbows with my comments. I really appreciate all of this feedback though. In my area we have truly talented peopel who claim to draw birds from their mind and I guess I want to be competitive with them. I should learn to realize my limitations and get along with mediocrity.

Thanks.
What's mediocre about that?

Look at it this way they only have brain - hand co-ordination you will have have eye - brain - hand co-ordination . There is always more than one way of looking at things...
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Old Tuesday 21st June 2005, 20:35   #9
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What's mediocre about that?

Look at it this way they only have brain - hand co-ordination you will have have eye - brain - hand co-ordination . There is always more than one way of looking at things...
You know you are right, I dont know why the hell I am so negative, for some reason it is just too easy to beat myself up and so difficult to come up with the words and reasoning to sell myself.
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Old Tuesday 21st June 2005, 21:52   #10
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nightheron, I dont know of any wildlife or avian artists that paint or draw birds from their mind. Maybe there are some, but those ones would have to know every feather, every marking, every correct measurement to get all the things perfect for correct anatomy, and personally, I cannot imagine anyone having THAT much knowledge of every detail of every bird they paint. Think of the most famous wildlife artists, John Seery Lester, Robert Bateman, Terry Issac, to name a few, and what do they use as tools? Yes, sketching and studying from life, studying from stuffed specimens, taking notes, and also taking photos. I have numerous books by well known artists, and they all recommend all the above mentioned tools to help achieve a realistic and accurate painting or drawing of a bird or animal. You cant ever get a wildlife subject to be still long enough to draw it for more than a quick general sketch. Knowing your subject, as in watching their behaviour and movement, knowing their habitat, etc, helps an artist to portray the subject accurately. And your own skill in painting or drawing will help bring that subject to life. If I attempted to only draw from my mind, and if I considered using tools such as photographs unacceptable or not considered the work of a true artist, I would have packed it in long ago.

My advice to you would be to use all the tools that are available to you, learn as much as you can about your subjects, and enjoy painting them. If you try to reach perfection through the strict method of only painting from your mind, how much would pleasure would you really get out of painting? I can imagine you would face constant frustration and disappointment. You're never going to get enough details from ANY live bird to be able to translate into a finished work. Wildlife just isnt that cooperative! :)
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Old Wednesday 22nd June 2005, 01:05   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Balego
nightheron, I dont know of any wildlife or avian artists that paint or draw birds from their mind. Maybe there are some, but those ones would have to know every feather, every marking, every correct measurement to get all the things perfect for correct anatomy, and personally, I cannot imagine anyone having THAT much knowledge of every detail of every bird they paint. Think of the most famous wildlife artists, John Seery Lester, Robert Bateman, Terry Issac, to name a few, and what do they use as tools? Yes, sketching and studying from life, studying from stuffed specimens, taking notes, and also taking photos. I have numerous books by well known artists, and they all recommend all the above mentioned tools to help achieve a realistic and accurate painting or drawing of a bird or animal. You cant ever get a wildlife subject to be still long enough to draw it for more than a quick general sketch. Knowing your subject, as in watching their behaviour and movement, knowing their habitat, etc, helps an artist to portray the subject accurately. And your own skill in painting or drawing will help bring that subject to life. If I attempted to only draw from my mind, and if I considered using tools such as photographs unacceptable or not considered the work of a true artist, I would have packed it in long ago.

My advice to you would be to use all the tools that are available to you, learn as much as you can about your subjects, and enjoy painting them. If you try to reach perfection through the strict method of only painting from your mind, how much would pleasure would you really get out of painting? I can imagine you would face constant frustration and disappointment. You're never going to get enough details from ANY live bird to be able to translate into a finished work. Wildlife just isnt that cooperative! :)
Wow! This is so true. My biggest problem is that people around me look at my work and the first they say is "Did you copy this from a photo?" My response "Well somewhat but..." Immediate laughter and then ridicule. It makes it so hard to think of my self as an artist who can sell their work because of this.
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Old Wednesday 22nd June 2005, 05:11   #12
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Originally Posted by nightheron28
Wow! This is so true. My biggest problem is that people around me look at my work and the first they say is "Did you copy this from a photo?" My response "Well somewhat but..." Immediate laughter and then ridicule. It makes it so hard to think of my self as an artist who can sell their work because of this.
You really dont have to justify yourself to anyone, and no one has the right to make you feel inadequate as an artist. Ignore anyone who is so rude, and be proud of what you can accomplish with your own skill and ideas and creativity, even if that means using photos for references to help you with the details.

Something is seriously wrong with anyone who would laugh and redicule another artists work methods. If you listened to such people, you would lose out on the simple joy of painting and drawing, as you would never feel you could measure up to their expectations of what an artist is. Ignore them! Paint and draw the way you want to, and use whatever you need to do it.
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Old Wednesday 22nd June 2005, 08:03   #13
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Hi Nightheron,

Using your own photo reference is certainly not 'cheating' in my opinion, nor that of most wildlife artists working today. Take a look here: http://www.robertbateman.ca/art/rbop...npainting.html
Great advice from one of the acknowledged masters of the genre.

Woody
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Old Wednesday 22nd June 2005, 10:52   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nightheron28
Wow! This is so true. My biggest problem is that people around me look at my work and the first they say is "Did you copy this from a photo?" My response "Well somewhat but..." Immediate laughter and then ridicule. It makes it so hard to think of my self as an artist who can sell their work because of this.
Hello Nightheron,

I didn’t arrive at any of the stuff below easily – I so know where you are coming from.

So, for whatever it’s worth…

People always say “Oh it must be so relaxing doing art”. If only they knew the angst it can knot you up with!

Be a bit kinder to yourself. Your harshest critic is your internal one – and it sounds as though your internal critic is doing the work of a whole army at the moment. Try giving it a bop on the nose and telling it to push off for a while!

My work with animals isn’t feather by feather stuff – very far from it. But I still use photographs as source material. My own benchmark (but it doesn’t need to be anyone else’s – decide what you want to do) is that I only do birds and animals that I feel really familiar with, either through sketching, photographing myself or observing. If I feel I have “internalised” the bird, so that in my own head I can really feel its shape as I imagine running my hands over it, then I will paint, sculpt it or whatever. Using all reference material I need to just get on with it.

My biggest enemy is the 101 reasons I can give myself to not to just do it!

I always tell people that there are no rules in art – but drinking the white spirit generally isn’t a good idea .

When I make a piece of art, I do what I want to – for me it is a disaster to try and second-guess what other people want. So if I can hear imaginary other people’s voices as I work I just ignore them and they shut up as I concentrate on the job in hand.

Unless it’s a commission and they are a bit of a nightmare anyway.

If I do use a photograph I sketch the photograph(s), several time if necessary. Not because there are any rules about it (of course!) but because I get better end results. I really get to understand what I am seeing and the information that I need and the information that I don’t need. Colour notes too if necessary. Start to take ownership. And then I shove the photo away and just work on the final thing from the sketches - not the photo.

A by-product of the process (but not the reason for it) is that, if we do end up discussing it, I can tell people about how useful a photo can be for grabbing and understanding detail but there is a lot more to it than just copying. I always love to see other people’s working methods, so I will show them the process if I’ve got the sketches and photos to hand.

And I think of my self as an artist who can sell their work. And do! I don’t force anyone to buy my work but people choose to and I think it would be a shame to deny them the chance to buy yours.

Not an art book. “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers is a real bargain from Amazon and a very useful tool for starting to lose negativity and loosen up and face the world with a great big grin . Which is fantastically good for the art stuff and better fun all round!

Good luck !

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Old Tuesday 28th June 2005, 20:07   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nightheron28
Wow! This is so true. My biggest problem is that people around me look at my work and the first they say is "Did you copy this from a photo?" My response "Well somewhat but..." Immediate laughter and then ridicule. It makes it so hard to think of my self as an artist who can sell their work because of this.
Hi Night Heron,

Only just read your replies.
Previous posts are correct ...as an artist any tools are valid to the finished article. There is no such thing as cheating!!!! Every work of art no matter how it was achieved is part of the artist and will show their particlar feelings or approach at the time. As for bird artists working from their "minds" that is hogwash, every artist i know.. and that is quite a few uses all kinds of reference from sketches to video , still photos and stuffed birds....whatever it takes

Phil.
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Old Wednesday 29th June 2005, 10:34   #16
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Originally Posted by shelley810
There isn't an artist around that doesn't use life, photos (that THEY have taken or used other photos for definitive detail) along with their creativity to do drawings, paintings, sculpture....
Madam Tussaud's usually takes >100 pictures of their subject, from different
angles, so that maximum similarity is met.

If it is a bird that doesnt sit still for more than 3 seconds, how will one sketch them in detail???
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Old Friday 8th July 2005, 06:07   #17
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Hi Nightheron,

Using your own photo reference is certainly not 'cheating' in my opinion, nor that of most wildlife artists working today. Take a look here: http://www.robertbateman.ca/art/rbop...npainting.html
Great advice from one of the acknowledged masters of the genre.

Woody
Woody,

You are one of those people who draws birds from life. How do you do it? Teach me I want to be your padawan learner.

One reason it is beneficial to learn to draw birds from your head or at least be able to rapidly sketch them down is because a camera is not always readily available and if your like me you cannot afford a expensive setup with telphoto lens w/ fast auto focus to take your own photos, so as to not copy write infringe.
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Old Tuesday 12th July 2005, 07:57   #18
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Woody,

You are one of those people who draws birds from life. How do you do it? Teach me I want to be your padawan learner.
(Blush) Thanks, I'm not the greatest at sketching from life but I do enjoy it.

I think that one of the most important things I was told was to look for the shapes in your subject. If you can break the subject down into some basic shapes it becomes easier to take a mental snapshot and transfer that to paper. Sometimes I'll draw without looking at the paper, it's not always successful but you can get some idea of the shapes and work them up later.

Sketching is about getting something of the 'spirit' of the moment, I personally feel that photography does the same thing. You have to be 'in the field' to take the photograph, you are therefore experiencing the moment, the smells and sounds etc and that is, I think, what makes a difference.

May the force be with you!

Woody
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