Ayush Kumar On Thursday, August 19, 2010

Before I even knew what this photoshop and graphic design was, I was still an artist. Thats because I used to sketch (and still do, sometimes). I used to sketch using shading pencils and paper. People used to tell me that I was awesome and possessed great skills as an 'artist'. I was very happy. But there was one little fact that I never paid much attention to - I always used to sketch using some kind of reference, be it an image from the internet, a book cover or just some random source. I didn't care much as long as people loved my work.

If you don't get what I mean by 'reference', take a look at the pencil sketches in this post. Though the sketches are simply mind-blowing and unbelievably real-looking, almost all of them have used some kind of 'reference', that is, the artists have made them using some photo of the person sketched. If you think I doubt any such artist's talent, then you are very wrong. I respect all the artists showcased in that post. And why wouldn't I, when I myself sketch like they do?

The problem

I was happy sketching celebrities and landscapes until I read a comment on some article like the above link. It was on an article showcasing such works - sketches made by highly skilled people using a reference image. They had drawn celebrities, places and objects. The showcase of the artist's works was amazing! Just like the link shared above. But when I was scrolling through the comments section , I found some comments shocking. They said that people like these, who use reference images, are not real artists. Just just modify other people's ideas and works and present them in a new manner, claiming them as their own. It was like a slap on my face. The last thing any "true" artist wants to hear is that their ideas are not original. And that they lack creativity.

But later, when I thought over it carefully, I realized that there was some amount of truth in those points. And it made me sad. Very sad. Why? Because all these years, I was just recreating other people's works. I had never made any sketch out of my own imagination.

Originality and creativity Vs. skills

I must clarify here that I'm not talking just about traditional art.. I mean all kinds of art, digital art included. The opinion that has now formed in my mind over this issue is that it is a fight between originality/creativity and the skills. If you use a reference for your artwork, you are in a way reproducing someone else's work in a different manner. The 'artist's' own imagination isn't being used much. A true artist must have originality of ideas and a creative imagination to produce stunning art on his/her own.

But on the other hand, an artist's skills are equally important. If they does not have their unique style or skill set, then what kind of artist are they? If someone does not have the skills to express themselves through art, then what good is the imagination? What I mean to say is that if you don't know how to paint, then how does it matter if you use a reference image or not? Your ideas won't be expressed anyway - original or not. But if you do have the skills, sometimes making something using a reference image is OK to showcase them.


Thinking over it, I've come to a conclusion that it is not entirely wrong to use a reference image for work. Thats because sometimes, it is not wrong to show other people's ideas in your own way. And its absolutely OK to showcase your skills if you are proud of them. As long as it doesn't become a habit. Thats because if it becomes a habit, the originality and creativity is lost over the time. An artist isn't an 'artist' if he doesn't have original and creative ideas in his mind. Thats all I have to say.

What do you think? Is it right to use some kind of a reference in your work? Comment, please!


numra said...

Personally, I think it's ok to use reference images for certain art. I don't know if sketching someone elses picture is 'art' but it never the less requires skills. Like making a vector of an image, people make vectors based off of another persons picture. It takes skills that could possibly used to make more creative pieces. Some things, like photomanipulation of an image or using stock images to spice up a website design also requires skills. Anyone can make a photomanipulation but only some people can make a good photomanipulation. I guess if people consider using reference images as 'unartistic', it's their opinion and it shouldn't stop sketchers from considering themselves to be artists. After all, the commenters probably can't sketch an image exactly like some of the examples you showed.

Ayush said...

Well said, numra! That is exactly what my point in the post is.

" Like making a vector of an image, people make vectors based off of another persons picture. It takes skills that could possibly used to make more creative pieces."
Yes. Their skills can probably be used in making something on their own and I guess, they would be appreciated even more when they so. In this era of copy-paste, original and creative people are respected a lot.

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