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.
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.
Hi Mindy … I agree wholeheartedly with your comments relative to copying from photos. Val specifically stated in one of her comments or blogs that the photos in her lessons were taken from purchased stock photos. I have asked for permission from artists as well to use their photos for drawing exercises. I generally use all my own reference photos when drawing and painting as well. This has also been stressed in other art classes I have participated in. Using a combination of reference photos is a good idea too. Love your purple iris above!
Best, Carole Jurack
Thanks for reading the blog post. I try to use my own photos when at all possible also. I find that when I take the pictures myself I have a personal connection with the subject and it makes a better piece of art. I am glad that you like the way I combine reference photos and hope you find it useful in the future.
Thank you for bringing up this important subject! I am in total agreement with you. A few months ago I ran across a blog where someone was showing a step-by-step demonstration of a painting. She was using a photo from a field guide as her reference and only changed the background; the subject was painted exactly as it appeared in the photo in the book. Not only did she not give credit to the photographer (or book) in her blog, I was horrified to see that she was selling the finished painting! Clearly she had no clue that what she was doing was totally illegal. But it isn’t just about copyright infringement. I kept thinking about the photographer who most likely spent countless hours – maybe even days – tracking down the subject, and taking many photos before getting the perfect shot. It is hard to make a living as a nature photographer. That person took advantage of all of the photographer’s time, skills and hard work in order to make a profit for herself. I was disgusted, to say the least!
I understand your disgust. It is disheartening when people do not respect other people’s work. I once handed out drawings to a class so that they could just have an exercise in watercolor without having to take time in class to do the drawing. It was a simple drawing, but it was my drawing. I did a demo and had them follow along step by step. At the end of the class everybody’s painting looked very much the same as mine. One of the students used the drawing that she turned into a painting and then exhibited in an art show that I was also in. I was horrified when I saw it on the wall. I have always made a point of teaching about copy rights. Some people get it and others don’t. I can only keep trying!!!!!
I put a question to the blog Botanical Art for Beginners about Dura Lar, and you were mentioned as the go to person. I am just starting with colored pencil on Dura Lar and am looking for tips on the best way to do it and layering, peoples experiences etc.
do you have some wisdom you can pass on to me?
Thanks for stopping by my blog. The Botanical Art for Beginners Forum is a great way to learn and share experiences. I sent you a private email with my response. Check back for further blog posts on colored pencil.
While I agree that one should use their own photos when creating their art, Val made it very clear that she purchased photographs specifically for use in her class as teaching tools. I really enjoy Val’s classes and think she is a very sharing teacher. I used the photos she supplied as practice to what she was teaching. However, I also used photos that I took of my dog. Same with birds — I used her photos for various exercises, but used a long lens and spent many weekends (still doing so) photographing birds.
All of this being said, I absolutely respect copyright whenever possible. I have had my designs used without permission, and it is no fun dealing with that stuff. But I do believe Val took all the right steps — she paid for photos for specific use in her class for teaching purposes. 🙂
Thanks for visiting my blog. I agree whole-heartedly about Val. She is an awesome teacher. Her style and variety of teaching is very well done. Yes, she does purchase the rights to her photos for use in her classes. She is a true professional in every respect. People don’t realize that artists as well as photographers have copy rights. It is my hope in blogging about the subject to bring a better awareness to the general public and my readers. In the past I supplied my own drawings for students to work from to learn a technique. I was shocked when one of my students exhibited the painting in a show. I have since stopped providing drawings and make sure that I make the usage of other people’s images, whether drawings or photographs, for learning purposes only.