How to handle bad reference photos - any tips?
2yr
Moonless_Sky
Hi everyone! My father asked me to paint the pet of a friend. He wants to surprise her so he can't ask for a good photo. Now I have just two pictures he send me via messanger and they are very bad... :O Does anyone habe an Idea how to handle such bad references? Do you habe any advice? Thank you very much :)
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cybersekkin
I favor the nice lie for this case. Ask your father to tell the person that he likes that cat and wants to show someone else it. Or, that you wanted to show pictures of the cat to someone who can't believe how much the cat looks like theirs (have a name of someone who they don't know handy in case they ask. Better if that person lives far away so they have no chance to meet the person). Short of that: references online, trip to the pet store. The thing is without seeing the cat in good ref or better in person it is easy to miss some distinctive feature or other that will give the project a better change of success. By those pictures I wouldn't even be willing to commit to a color. Any chance you could get an invite over to dinner at their house? Best, option is to find some way to see the cat and maybe grab some snapshots when they are not looking.
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Moonless_Sky
Good idea with the dinner! I like free food anyway ;) Gonna try this and secretly take some pictures of the cat :D
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teteo tolis
Hello Moonless. In your situation searching for a "female tabby cat" in google and adapting it, is your best option. in steps: 1. Google "female tabby cat" 2. Find one that looks similar 3. Use it as reference to draw it 4. Change her characteristics : fur, chubbyness ,eyes, etc. TIPS: - Pay attention on the markings around her face (that faint "M" on her forehead) ,chest and neck. - Looking at those two pictures , her colors are closer to the first image (due to white balance) - Do some sketches of cats and research first before the first draft! RESEARCH! - Cats have faces with different head and eye shapes and sizes (even when they are the same species, also that's how I can tell that she's a female) - Cat anatomy , learn the basic skeleton and the big muscles. Fur can be forgiving. Some extra tips: Doing "free" art as gifts for others is not a good idea. If you're on your teens ask for something like an ice cream in return , it may be symbolic but it gives to your time a value. If you're an adult on near adulthood and interested to be a creative that gets payed you should do some research on entrepreneurship. There's a book called Art, Inc. That'll help you, also the DRAFTSMEN podcast has some GREAT advice on the matter ! Go and listen to these as you paint the lady-cat :) Season 1 Episode 02 Season 1 Episode 06 Season 1 Episode 08 Season 1 Episode 17 -Have a great day!
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Moonless_Sky
Thanks! Well you nailes it with the "free art"... Often I at least get a thank-you-gift but most people do not know how time consuming just the preparations for a drawing are. Gonna need to change my approach on that matter :) Thank you for pointing that out!
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Shea
2yr
Perfect advice so far! I would also recommend you take it a step further for good measure; pull up some anatomical diagrams for cats along with your other regular photo references, so you have an even stronger idea of the structures you're looking at and how to build your subject believably. A well rounded knowledge base of what you're drawing makes bad references much easier to work with!
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Moonless_Sky
Great idea! Thanks!
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Steffen Nielsen
I agree with Nanna! I think the best option here is to find a high quality reference photo of a cat in a pose that fits however you want to approach the painting - and then study these two photos and apply the markings and features to the good reference. It’s a bit of extra work but I’m sure you’ll do great!
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Moonless_Sky
Thank you! Going to follow the advice :)
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Nanna Skytte
Year that's a challenge.... hmmm... I think I would go to unsplash.com to find a good cat reference - All photos there is free to use. Here is a link: https://unsplash.com/s/photos/cat Maybe you could find one that have the same kind of body type like the cat, and then use it for a reference, and then add the right color on the fur, eyes and markings. I know it is not the same as the real deal. But I hope it can be helpful in some way. Best of luck and happy drawing! :)
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Moonless_Sky
Thank you very much!
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Serena Marenco
WOW, they're really bad ^^; Well, Although the photos are not very good they give you an idea of the physical structure of this cat and its somatic features such as the shape of the face and the pattern of the stripes. (Its not chubby but have not a too short fur -you can see the tail is a bit chubby, that mean it have some fluffy underfur- it have nice hears whitout cuts, and long whisker, an angular face, ecc.) Help yourself with some better photos of other cats and make a mashup. Mainly use a better photo of another cat to set up the pose and general structure and then based on these photos to edit until a resemblance to the specific cat is achieved. If you can, however, try to ask these people for more photos and ask questions if you have any doubts: "What colour are his eyes? It is not clear from the photo" etc. However, from the second photo you should be able to get the facial proportions and shapes. In short, don't copy these photos but use both of them. Usually when I have to deal with bad references (for example I'm doing some puffin studies these days starting from the screenshots of a low resolution live camera) I place all the photos I have open in a file (you can do this whether you work digitally or analogue) in order to have as many angles and information as possible: maybe in one photo you can see the eyes very well, another has a nice gesture even if the details are too blurred, from another I can see the structure of the legs, etc.. In another file (or on a sheet of paper) I start to put together all the information I have: I'll take the pose I like so much from the blurred photo and use it to establish the gesture, from the others I'll try to understand what the shapes are, from what height the wings start, at what angle the legs are detached from the body, etc.. Once I have the gestures and the structure, I will have identified some characteristics of a specific individual and I will have blocked them in the drawing, I will make a research on internet to look for more accurate photos from which I can understand how the eyelids are made, for example, and using this as a guide I will go and insert the specific detail, obviously adapting the angle and the colour so that they come as close as possible to those of the individual I am trying to recreate. The general characters are always the same for everyone, all cats have the same skull structure, just like all humans, only the proportions change slightly. One cat will have a broader face, one will have more angular features, one will be fatter or have more hair. I hope I helped a bit :)
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Serena Marenco
I'm lucky enough I have an excuse when relatives and friends ask me for that kind of portraits! "You know I have face blindness! I just recognised you because your shirt!!! ç_____ç" (This was Serena Marenco in "How to turn your weakness as an avantage!" :p )
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