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Joined: 1/14/2013
Msg: 1
Using Photos Is Cheating?Page 1 of 1    
I've always wondered, if your drawing something or someone, is it considered cheating to use a photo for reference or to draw from that photo? Some people say all your really doing is copying. This is probably one of the most debated topic in art and can be applied to anything like paints or sculpting as well. What are your thoughts?
Joined: 4/4/2013
Msg: 2
Using Photos Is Cheating?
Posted: 4/12/2013 4:35:47 PM
Francis Bacon used photos almost exclusively。
Joined: 6/29/2009
Msg: 3
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Using Photos Is Cheating?
Posted: 4/12/2013 5:12:46 PM
I would say that it depends on what you are trying to prove with your work.

Artists used to work directly from the actual person. That would be the ultimate "cheat" by this sort of thinking, wouldn't it?

If what you are out to prove is that you can memorize a face, and paint it or draw it from your recollections alone, then using a photo might be a cheat. If you are trying to prove that you can create a perfect likeness by dint of your own handiwork, and you trace a photograph, that might be a cheat.

But since most art is actually an attempt to communicate MORE than what is visible in such as a photograph, or even a direct viewing of the subject, then starting from a photo is no more a 'cheat' than using any other tool would be.

I am just a lowly repair technician who studied History in college, but I know enough about the history of Art itself from those and related studies, to appreciate that this debate still goes on. Also, I know how the so-called "great masters," past and present alike, used anything and everything possible in order to achieve what ended up being declared wondrous by critics and "appreciationists."

Here's a tiny true story from the realm of songwriting art that I think applies:

when John Lennon was in the midst of penning one of his legendary songs, he got stuck in the search for the right word at one point. Someone in the room, other than his other three official partners, suggested what ended up in the recordings we celebrate now. That person never got writing credit, and deservedly so. Not because their status wasn't "songwriter," and Lennon's was, but because it is the ARTIST who decides what is and isn't the correct thing to write, or sing, or paint, or draw, or cut, or sculpt into the piece.
Joined: 12/9/2012
Msg: 4
Using Photos Is Cheating?
Posted: 4/12/2013 8:02:39 PM
You're not copying because you're working in another medium. Plus, you could put the same photograph in front of 50 different artists, all using the same medium, and get 50 different results.
Joined: 6/29/2009
Msg: 5
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Using Photos Is Cheating?
Posted: 4/13/2013 4:43:19 AM
Something to look at in the history of this artists debate, is why it got started in the first place.

I think it's rather funny, and illuminating, myself.

When photography was first invented, there was a great panic among the portion of the artist industry that specialized in, or relied on portraits for their way of life. Suddenly the market for expensive paintings was cut by some huge amount, as many people who wanted a picture of someone chose the quick and relatively cheap "snap shot" instead.

That's when the "photography is cheating" thing started. If the actions required to take a photograph were as painstaking and skill-requiring as painting and drawing are, such that only well-trained/experienced and talented people could take a photo, there would never have been a debate to begin with (note: professional photographers got upset when digital manipulation of photos became easy, for the same reason). It would simply have been seen as another medium.

Heck, the day that erasers were discovered/ invented, there was a huge debate among the charcoal and pencil crowd of artists over whether erasing was a form of "cheating."

In my main area of artistic endeavor, songwriting, at each time when a new recording technology was invented, there was an uproar from the affected section of performance artists, complaining that the new tech was a cheat. I remember when the surge of modern electronic manipulation tech arrived during the late 70's, that tons of famous people angrily declared that the use of any of it was a cheat, and would result in people being fooled into buying crap art, from "fake" songwriters and singers.

Then too, what was eventually realized by pretty much everyone, is that the "art part" really does come from the mind and skill of the artist, no matter what the tools employed may be. The performers who generated a sea of great-sounding crap songs, only sold a scant few, before the buying public caught on, and saw through the effects to the emptiness within.
Joined: 1/24/2013
Msg: 6
Using Photos Is Cheating?
Posted: 4/17/2013 6:25:38 AM
OP, didn't most painters and illustrators use multiple sketches to remind themselves of the scene, possibly from several views too, in order to build up in their mind a more complete feel of the scene. A person might be important in a view, or the eyes of a person important in a portrait. Photographs are too often flat and clinical, though with HDR techniques I think even photographs are drifting away from the cold light of day realism.

So a photo is only a starting point for the artist, banning the use of them either means a lot of numb bums as models have to endure long hours while the slower of us painters get finished, or art been reduced to a competition in memory - photographic memory indeed. Most education systems have drifted away from the learning by rote, to more understanding of the principles. I failed to get top marks in chemistry because I simply couldn't memorise all the atomic weights etc of the elements, I still understand how to make moonshine.

Archaelogists like to draw digs rather than photograph them, isn't that cheating in the sense that you are been subjective and emphazing the details you're interested in. Digital photography allows endless selection and erasure of elements of the scene. Maybe all forms of art are slowly converging. The means of arriving at art aren't important, its what you the artist convey in feeling about a subject. Though I struggle to appreciate exhibiitons of unmade beds and piles of bricks....
Joined: 1/31/2007
Msg: 7
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Using Photos Is Cheating?
Posted: 4/18/2013 7:01:53 PM
I don't think it's cheating at all if you use your own photos. Lots of artists use photos to work from. As for me, I sometimes use parts of my photos but I have no interest in reproducing an image exactly; often I work from my imagination. It all comes down to personal preference. Modern art is very exciting as there are no rules you have to follow.

On a side note, I'm not keen on using other people's photos, especially without permission. I know a lot of people who copy images straight out of magazines; some of them even reproduce other artists' paintings, which I find very unimaginative.
Joined: 5/6/2012
Msg: 8
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Using Photos Is Cheating?
Posted: 4/19/2013 11:51:44 AM
It depends on how you got the photo. If you took it yourself, or have permission from the photographer, (for example, if it's specifically listed as free stock, or if it's stock you've purchased) you're Ok.
If it's just something you've found on Google, it's not OK.

Using photos to teach yourself how to draw something or someone is normal practice, even among professional artists. The trick is to use the reference to support your own ideas, rather than the other way around. If you're doing a portrait of a specific person (like a friend or family member) it might even be easier than to get them to sit for you. Just make sure the photos are of good quality.
Joined: 4/5/2013
Msg: 9
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Using Photos Is Cheating?
Posted: 4/20/2013 5:09:14 PM
That attitude is outdated. Don't let what others say trouble you one bit. Be true to yourself, push that to highest level you can, and see what happens. --A college art professor of several decades....
Joined: 2/1/2013
Msg: 10
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Using Photos Is Cheating?
Posted: 4/21/2013 6:20:03 PM
There's a big difference in using reference, and straight up copying a photo.

For the latter, see comic artist Greg Land.
Joined: 3/14/2013
Msg: 11
Using Photos Is Cheating?
Posted: 5/14/2013 12:01:01 AM
Its not cheating; its creating a different expression of an image.
If you have a personal problem with it, take your own photos.
Cant take one of an image you need? Create one in a paint / photo program.
Ive been known to paint digital recreations of photos Ive taken.
Its all art darlin'~ "he lives to express himself, and in doing so enriches the world"- Henry Miller
Joined: 12/25/2006
Msg: 12
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Using Photos Is Cheating?
Posted: 5/24/2013 3:45:12 AM
Norman Rockwell used to mount different photos of his subject all around his easel, and so was not copying one image in particular. Lots and lots of Victorian-era print engravings were traced from photos, before photos themselves could be printed along with text.

"The Hockney–Falco thesis is a controversial theory of art history, advanced by artist David Hockney and physicist Charles M. Falco, suggesting that advances in realism and accuracy in the history of Western art since the Renaissance were primarily the result of optical aids such as the camera obscura, camera lucida, and curved mirrors..."

And the more I look back at fine commercial art in early '60 magazine ads, the more I think "light table." The artist's job was to do what photographs can not do, one of which is not to look exactly like a photograph.
Joined: 3/14/2013
Msg: 13
Using Photos Is Cheating?
Posted: 5/24/2013 9:38:06 AM
^ That was back when you had to be an artist to be in advertising/printing. The age of computer graphics and digital media changed an entire industry. Surreal, abstract, and modern art work also became viewed under a different light through programs like Photoshop. An entire generation started to be raised in the digital era. So the question of "is using photos cheating", is a very valid one to ask from a younger perspective. I still say no its not, as long as the artist is creating an original piece.
Joined: 5/4/2012
Msg: 14
Using Photos Is Cheating?
Posted: 5/29/2013 8:19:13 AM
When I went to art school 4 million years ago that was the rule.

I was also a photographer. I painted many pictures from my photos, but I was also there so the colors and light were in my brain.

Just last week a person mistook a water color I did 15+ years ago for a photo. It is clearly a water color, but his statement made me realize that I nailed it with the technique and the colors with that picture.

I think you have to use both reality and photos. The photo is good for the composition and capturing the subject in that pose. You have to have reality to capture the light and how the moment inspires you.

No matter what you create you are furthering yourself.
Joined: 11/30/2005
Msg: 15
Using Photos Is Cheating?
Posted: 6/17/2013 8:38:10 PM
I exclusively use photo's for reference when i'm painting.
I have several series in mind that i want to do, but to create them exactly how i want them, I'll be doing my own photo shoots as my references.
I've been developing my style and skills since i was 13 when i pretty well taught myself how to draw/paint and create with other mediums. I can sketch and draw with live references, but i prefer not to. I have several reasons why i prefer photo over live. If i'm painting a scene with a person, it can be difficult for the subject to keep still for hours on end, and then if you break and finish the next day, it can be hard to get said subject into the same exact position as the day before. At least with a photo as a reference, there isn't any worrying over "can i get them to be in the exact position again?".
Joined: 6/29/2009
Msg: 16
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Using Photos Is Cheating?
Posted: 6/18/2013 4:21:51 AM
One of the things I keep rediscovering about Art, is that it isn't in the medium, that's just a tool of the artist. The Art either does or doesn't happen, in what is communicated and how.

If someone uses a photograph simply to make a copy of something, with no intent to communicate anything more than "I can trace lines if the paper is translucent enough," they are unlikely to create Art.

But regardless of what an artist does to make their message happen, if they succeed in conveying the thought/emotion/etc, then they created Art.

So of course using photos CAN be 'cheating.' But using only paint and brush techniques can be 'cheating' just as much, if the person doing it is not communicating.

Even a well respected, proven great Artist can decide to perform crude tricks with their tools, and create crap that is assuredly not Art.
Joined: 11/10/2012
Msg: 17
Using Photos Is Cheating?
Posted: 7/22/2013 6:15:47 AM
I have to agree. Using a photo is only for reference. I have to grid my canvas if it is very large. But to do the basic out line is only to get your preportions right. What you do with the paint is all your own talent. I can take a photo and paint it and make my painting look as real as if you was standing there in front of it. So I would say No using a photo is NOT cheating.
Joined: 11/10/2012
Msg: 18
Using Photos Is Cheating?
Posted: 7/22/2013 6:33:10 AM
Or if you don't like the realism of painting, paint it child like. Not that is do not like. But that is my own opinion. I am a realistic painter.
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