I have been having a discussion online with some other people about the need or use of reference. There seems to be this disturbing trend in younger thinking that reference isn’t a good thing and that you can learn enough about drawing and painting to not need it. They seem to think using any kind of reference is mere copying, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Jean Leon Gerome
While I agree that there are many people who get by with a professional level of representational work that doesn’t rely on reference. I think you cheat yourself to not include its use as a professional artist. This goes double for working from life. No matter what your level of ability or chosen genre, the use of reference can only help. Of course you have to be confident in your abilities and smart enough not to let it supersede artistic judgment. Reference should only follow and enhance design, never decide it.
Francisco Pradilla Ortiz
Working from life allows you an infinite amount of solutions to the problems of form, value and color. Our finite imaginations and limited memory can’t even come close to that full range of possibilities and combinations. Even composition can be better informed with the use of reference and life studies.
The great artists and illustrators of the past used everything they had available to them to create work of lasting impression.They worked hard to achieve their artistic goals and never settled for an easy solution to their paintings. If you just work to only satisfy a client and get by with the barest minimum of professionalism, then you doom your work to mediocrity and the trash bin of history. Not an epitaph one wishes for their career.