Photo References... Models & Such

People often ask me what photo references I use for my paintings. So for your FYI, here are my methods of attack!

1. Models

If I have a model who is conveniently available for photographs, I am a super happy ducky. It's difficult to find a face that translates well into my work. Sometimes the most stunning girls don't make good references for me to draw, and sometimes I'll find a face that I don't particularly find attractive, but there is some magic about the angles that produce my perfect painting girl. However with my bestest friend, I find the best of both worlds in one human being. Here are the refs I shot recently of this lovely lady! (She will kill me for sharing them, eheheheh...)

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2. Modeling for myself

Sometimes the only person available to photograph is my own little self. I used to loathe this option because I don't find my own face inspiring in the least, and it's rather hard to both pose and take the photo at the same time! However recently because the new iPhone has the mirror photo feature (in which you can see yourself and capture the image like a webcam.) This method works brilliantly well! I can be as picky, fussy, and take as long as I want when they model is me. I can declare "Gross, not that one. Try again!" without hurting anyone's feelings. And I can always replace my face with a much lovelier one. Hehe.

↓ I can't believe I'm sharing this embarrassing reference photo I took of myself. (Mostly a hand reference. O_O;)

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As you can QUITE see, the photo doesn't have to be that good or amazing... as long as it's clear and big enough to use as a reference.

3. Photos from online

I continually collect photos that inspire me on my daily perusal of websites and blogs. I keep them all handy and pull them out when I need ideas or inspiration. I may practice drawing from online photos, but I don't use them exclusively for paintings. I want the idea to be my own, not someone else's (plus, you can get in trouble for direct copying of images that don't belong to you.) But they are very useful for pose, color, facial features, etc. Here are some of my fave inspirational blogs of late:

Ben Trovato

Charmaine Olivia's Tumblr

Heart in a Cage


4. Color schemes

I blogged before about Adobe Kuler helping me to pick out a cohesive color palette. I have to do this before I begin, because I'm the type of person who, during the painting process, completely forgets what I had planned and flies by the "seat of my pants." Then, the painting ends up looking quite different than I envisioned (although this is sometimes good.) Another great blog for color ideas is Decor 8. The colors in every single post are so incredibly inspiring and pop out like crazy. Here's an example of the color "map" I make before the start of every piece. This gives me a good, solid guide to what paint colors I should mix and use throughout the entire piece.

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5. Lighting references

As time goes on, I get picker and picker about the type of lighting/shadows I like to depict. I used to love heavy lights and darks like Caravaggio used. However these days, I strangely prefer the flat "flash" look, or else a very delicate rim lighting. It's pretty easy to take lighting from one photo and transfer it to another face as long as the angle is similar. Try it sometime!

↓ This photo of model Jourdan Dunn has the most perfect rim lighting that I just adore.

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↓ That photo is the lighting reference for most of my faces, even boys!

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