this is a topic I always wanted to talk about, and - of course - I know, my opinion is debatable. I updatet this text after some good comments and discussions where other people found better words for what I tried to say.
In my opinion, drawing someone else's photo 1:1 is no art, but a good exercise. It is craftsmanship, but there is no creative process in that. You can train your sleight of hand and working with your materials. But you do not have to contemplate about light, the composition - the photographer did it already. The photographer made all the artistical decisions, how you see something -THAT you see this and nothing but this. For me, these decisions are a huge amount of what is art and creativity. If every painter would copy photos, the only creative people would be the photographers, and we would see every picture a second time.
Another disadvantage is that you can recognize if something is drawn from a photo: For example, a bird is seen in profile and the primaries lay folded on the tail feathers. The end of the hinder wing is darker and partly covered by the anterior wing - on the photo you only see something dark above the tail feathers and you draw it as something dark above the tail feathers -
not as the primaries of the hinder wing. Do you understand?
You will never learn something about the anatomy, the thing
, because the photo releases you from thinking about what you see on it.
The last point is, and this is completely incomprehensive for me, that you copy the work of another artist - and you do not mention them. There are exceptions who mention the artist of the original - Thank you for that! - but that is the smaller part.
But there are solutions. The first point: You make your photo references on your own. Of course this is difficult if you would like to draw a snowy leopard, but it is a solution to avoid the problems with author's rights and the lack of conception of an object, because you can watch and understand it in real life, from different angles. And of course, you can determine the composition on your own. This is a creative performance. For this purpose I have a huge library of photos on my PC I made at zoos and excursions.
Another solution: You are an artist? So be creative! You can add or exclude things, backgrounds, objects. Make this motive your own. Use different pictures and create an object of them. This is a technique I often use for bird drawings of birds I have never seen in real life, like the Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill or the Northern Flicker. I look at about 50 or 100 photos of the bird so I can imagine it from all angles. When I have decided about the pose and light, I look for photos that are similar to the picture I want to draw. In the end I have about 3 to 10 photos I work with, but you would not be able to say which I used exactly.
The more I work as a professional illustrator, the more I learn: It is a super advantage to have the object you are drawing right under your nose. If I work with dried bird specimens (for example), I can turn them around, change the light, take a closer look at them. What is the colour of the underwing coverts? Can I see the beak from another angle, please? No Problem. When you watch living animals, they are moving all the time, and you just freeze the posture you like to have on your paper. You choose how you like to show something, no photographer.
If you start to proceed this way, you will learn anatomy and (example: birds) feather topography very fast, because you learn to see
. Wonderful objects to start with are shells from snails and mussels, they are not moving and have very interesting structures. And here starts the creative process, the individual style: What do you see, what is important to you? The structure itself or the tiny little scratches on the shell? You decide, and no decision is wrong, because it is your way to see. Later you ask yourself: Why is this structure this way and not different? Can you analyze, how the shell is growing, and what function some structures have? Then you are on a point of understanding
. And if you understand the priciple, you can change it however you like. This is how I draw birds, I construct
Of course, photos can be useful and support your work in many ways. And if you like to draw the dog of your aunt for christmas - I would take a photo, too, so the dog is really looking like this
dog and drawing gets faster (there is enough other stuff to do before christmas)...
But to improve your style of art, your knowledge and your brain, you need more than making an expensive copy of a photo - a picture that isn't new and already there.Perhaps you like to discuss this topic below? I am curious if you would agree or think completely different about it!