My ref­er­ence photos end up con­fus­ing me – do you have any ad­vice please?

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Imagine Nation Artist Q&A -

Tony replies

Ref­er­ence photos are im­por­tant, but if you’re not care­ful they can cause prob­lems of their own. Your first or­der of busi­ness should be to de­cide what you need and then pho­to­graph ac­cord­ingly.

Be­fore I take the time to get friends to­gether for ref­er­ence, I usu­ally make a cou­ple of small sketches that roughly de­fine the pose and, if pos­si­ble, the light­ing scheme. It can be tempt­ing to just go out­side and shoot photos un­til you’ve got some­thing you like (and be­lieve me, I’ve done it). But there are few things more an­noy­ing than think­ing you’ve got the per­fect im­age, sit­ting down to paint, and re­al­is­ing you have to do the photo shoot all over again be­cause the com­po­si­tion doesn’t work with the new pose, light­ing and so on. With a lit­tle knowl­edge of light­ing, you can even cut and paste your im­ages to­gether for a pose that’s more dy­namic than what you cap­tured ini­tially.

Once the im­age is ready, you can use the light­ing in­for­ma­tion in sev­eral ways. Ob­vi­ously, it’ll help you to paint the main fig­ure. When­ever I have to make some­thing up (the crow’s nest of a pi­rate ship, in this case) I look for any­thing with a sim­i­lar an­gle and/or tex­ture. When de­vel­op­ing the pose from ref­er­ence, don’t get too con­cerned with match­ing things ex­actly. In­stead of copy­ing the im­age, check in with it to get the in­for­ma­tion cor­rect while you draw the idea in your head.

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