I got asked this question recently and it is also one l have been thinking about for a while.
To a certain extent it depends what you are drawing, if you are drawing someone’s pet it may be more important to be exact. Too much ‘artistic license’ and they might not recognize their pet.
But what about when you are just using a beautiful photo as a reference?
l used to think that l must copy exactly every little detail. I will say that l learned a lot from trying to copy every little detail, even if l wasn’t always successful. Then l read an interview with a famous artist and the way that they spoke about photos changed my thinking.
It suddenly dawned on me that l am drawing, it is art. I can change a color, l can change a shape, l can take out shadows, l can add in a color. It was really very freeing to realize this. And it doesn’t have to make the finished piece unrealistic, it just makes it your own.
So for example with the Tree Swallow above, the eye is slightly larger (something l often do), the colors are clearly bluer and whiter. The shadows are pinkier. The eye l have kept a little lighter than the photo. The beak is more blue.
My Swallow is altogether cooler in tone. It was a choice l made when l started working it and realized that to get the greenish tint on the feathers l would lose a lot of the shine l had spent ages working to establish and that l rather liked the blue particularly against the color of paper l was using.
l have no idea why it has taken me so long to realize that if a fin makes a funny shape that l don’t like, l can just change it! If l don’t like the brown in a wing l can use a different color.
And the best thing of all is, it makes it your unique work. It is art, have fun!
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