Painted in CS6
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Hello~~! This is an excellent question that I actually used to struggle with a lot myself! Despite what many feel, I’ve come to find that drawing from photos is totally fine. It mostly depends on what the drawing is for, the source of the photo, and how direct you intend to reference/copy.
Using your own photos is always the best option. But that isn’t always possible. When I don’t have the option to work from my own photos (like with this piece), I find a variety of references online. I intend to use this in my portfolio and possibly sell prints, so I avoid direct copying to prevent copyright issues. For this piece specifically I used photos to reference the structure, fur direction, color patterns, and anatomy. Here are some of the references used:
Color inspiration: 500px.com/photo/90791801/leopa…
It’s also important to sketch out a rough thumbnail before searching for references. This allows the composition to be original and not reliant on photo. Reference should then be used to help enhance acuracy, not dictate it artistically...if that makes sense, haha.
This .gif kind of shows the process better: latenightthing.tumblr.com/post…
Never doubt using photos as a source. Do keep in mind that if you’re looking to make a piece for your portfolio, something commercially, or for profit it’s best to not copy directly. But if you’re looking to just mess around, learn a technique, or paint studies, copying a photo is generally harmless and can be a good exercise. If ever in doubt feel free to ask the photographer, and just be mindful of providing credit when due >u<b
(artist secret: Early on I heavily copied from photos and others' art. Many artist have done this. It offers great guidance in understanding anatomy, lighting, and technique. By copying photos, and from artist who already know what they're doing, you build a mental library and understanding so you won't always need reference. Don't be afraid to learn by copying! Just be mindful of what you choose to publicly post if you do copy from a drawing.)
Haha sorry if I went too in-depth/lengthy with this! I always love talking about different techniques and strategies. And photo reference is one of those topics that is often brought up amongst my piers! If you have any other questions feel free to ask, and have fun drawing