Drawing from Other People’s Photographs-  Is it Taboo?

I am currently taking an online course with Val Webb on drawing Dogs & Cats. For this assignment we were given several photographs to work from. I am uneasy  drawing from photographs that  are strictly “copying”other people’s photographs. I understand that for the simplicity of teaching a class, especially an online class, these “stock” photographs are necessary.

When I teach a class I make sure that my students respect, understand and adhere to copyright laws when they are drawing from photographs. This should only be for personal use or  for a class assignment. The finished work of art should never be sold or exhibited without written permission from the photographer.

One of my goals in the Drawing Dog and Cat Class is  to capture expressions on the faces of my cat drawings. I have 9 cats and used to do cat rescue.  I never met 2 cats a like. They are full of personality and I want to try to capture this in my cat drawings. Since the assignment was in black & white charcoal I decided to look for a Tuxedo Cat but I also wanted to do some long silky fur as well as have the cat have a powerful but interesting look of annoyance. I searched the web and found these 3 photographs.

 In the first photograph I loved the tufts on the end of the ears. In the second photograph I found the wonderful Tuxedo markings and lastly the third photograph had the best expression.  I combined the things that I liked from all 3 photographs to create this finished charcoal drawing, while respecting the photographers copyright.

Tuxedo Maine Coon Cat- Charcoal drawing by Mindy Lighthipe ©2013

“The Attitude of a Tuxedo Cat” Charcoal on Toned Paper- ©2013 Mindy Lighthipe

I really enjoy taking classes. No matter how advanced or professional an artist is, I believe it is important to keep growing and learning new things. For this particular assignment we were instructed to use grey tinted pastel paper and black and white charcoal pencils. I recently bought a pad of Strathmore Toned Paper in a medium and grey and tan. For this assignment I used the grey paper. The paper was awesome to work on and I really enjoyed creating the drawing working with the 3 values.

Do you think that working from other people’s photographs are taboo? I would love to hear from you. Leave your comments or questions below.