Drawing From Life or a Photo: Which Is Better?

academy aktkurs zeichnung 02 - Drawing From Life or a Photo: Which Is Better?

Drawing models is a method that has been tested for centuries, used to improve the artist own drawing skills.

Drawing from life or photo? Drawing models really trains the eye and is one of the most difficult artistic disciplines. Since the model may move and can be seen from any angle, it is much more challenging than drawing from a photo, but, at the same time, it offers incredible benefits.

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We are used to photos because we are daily bombarded with them due to our media society.

The concept that pictures represent reality is a matter of fact for many people and nobody comes up with the idea to question it. But the camera lens sees the world differently than the human eye. Often, distortions occur: Arms and legs become shorter or longer, and proportions become imbalanced. Moreover, a camera represents shadows in a different way: the human eye will respond to a wider range of light and shadow than a camera, which, for example, interpret the shadows just as a black tone. The contrast is also tremendously exaggerated by the lens: shadows are often too dark and lights too bright. Overall, several nuances get lost in a picture. Therefore, an artist, working on a photo loses important information, which he/she can only substitute with his/her own knowledge and experience.

On the contrary, drawing from a model is a mean that has been tested for centuries to improve the drawing skills. In this way, the artist has the opportunity to look at the model with his/her own eyes and to reproduce it as he/she sees it. The difficulties that arise, namely the movement of the model, or the change of perspective on the model, force the artist to think about anatomy, perspective, and shape and this is a great training for the eyes and the brain. Anyone drawing from a model for extended periods of time, develops also an understanding of the possible postures a person can assume so that the artist can later use these skills, even from a different perspective. The most important point, however, is that a model, in contrast to a picture, is not static. In a model, you can instantly see how the weight is distributed and this creates also a greater understanding of movement and energy, especially when you look closely at how a model assumes a pose.

If you do not have the opportunity to regularly draw a living model, you can at least go outside and sketch the people you see in the streets, trains or cafés.


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