A drawing reference is very easy to explain. Rather than drawing freehand, you draw from a reference picture. So, for example, if you’re drawing a bunch of flowers in a vase, you would use a physical bunch of flowers in a vase as your drawing reference.
Is Drawing Reference Cheating?
Some people say that using a drawing reference is cheating – but this is completely untrue! Even the greatest artists of all times use drawing references but it’s important to understand how to use them properly. You can use drawing reference for pose reference drawing, so when life drawing for example. The person who is modelling is your pose reference drawing model so to speak.
While some artists do rely on their visual recall to draw or paint a picture, it’s not always the best way to complete a perfect picture because you really do have to focus hard to remember shadows, different shapes and elements that must be captured. In fact, having a drawing pose reference is a much easier and a much more thorough method to use when you want to really capture something to perfection.
Search Online for Drawing References
If you’re drawing a human body, it is much easier to do so using a body drawing reference. As mentioned above, this could be in life drawing, where you have a real, live person posing in front of you and depending on the angle, you get a different finished picture. However, of course a real live human being isn’t always available, so what do you do in the meantime? Online is a great resource for body drawing reference. You can download a complete human body image or part of the human body. Google and Pinterest are excellent tools for drawing references. For example, if you’re just drawing a head and shoulders picture or creating an oil painting of someone’s face, a photograph will easily suffice.
Don’t Just Copy an Image
Top Tip! Remember, a drawing reference is especially useful, but you shouldn’t directly copy the drawing reference poses you choose. Sometimes, a person’s pose or an object’s perspective can look entirely natural in a photograph but when you draw it or paint it, it can resemble something stiff – without any fluid movement. Try to understand your subject rather than just drawing what you think you’re looking at. So always use your own perspective too when drawing or painting from reference. This is the best way to develop your own personal artistic style.
Use More Than One Drawing Reference
Another good idea is to combine drawing reference so don’t just use one image. In fact, use a selection of images but if you’re drawing a face, just use one. You can still mix up your drawing reference by choosing a different image for light and another one for color. This is a great way of being extra creative with your own art! This is a really top tip because then you get something completely original and there’s no risk of just “copying” an image. Plus you get two different perspectives. In portrait work, look at the facial muscles and the skull shape before you start drawing the face. This helps with getting the correct volume and proportion in your picture.
Create a Library of Drawing References
You could also devise your own set of references, take photographs of objects and people or interesting things you see while out and about and create a library to draw from when you want to paint or draw something.
Use Your Imagination
Of course using your imagination gives you a better overall picture but you can use your reference at the same time. So, you could start sketching using your imagination and then refer to your reference image, or vice versa. This is a great way to add your own, individual artistry style to your picture. Change up the colors too. Consider using black and white photographs for your drawing references because then you can add your own imaginative colors to your picture. Or try it the other way round. Drawing references can be incredibly inspiring and allow you to be really creative. Just by changing up the lighting in your picture you get a completely different perspective to your reference image or images.
Finally, don’t be afraid of using pose reference drawing or body drawing references in your own artwork. In most artists’ experience, it helps you get a better end result and it’s also a clever way to study human form, objects, light and depth. As you become a more accomplished artist, while you will likely still use drawing reference poses, you will find that you need to refer to them less and less because your memory will expand with different ideas from all the references you’ve used previously.
This is an excellent resource to use if you want drawing reference poses, click on the link to get started and it’s free to use: https://line-of-action.com/practice-tools/figure-drawing/.
Meta: How best to use drawing reference in your own artistry and understanding how to get the most out of drawing reference poses.