Painting From Life vs. From Photos
Mind you, the most perfect steersman that you can have, and the best helm, lie in the triumphal gateway of copying from nature. And this outdoes all other models; and always rely on this with a stout heart, especially as you begin to gain some judgment in draftsmanship. Do not fail, as you go on, to draw something every day, for no matter how little it is it will be well worth while, and will do you a world of good.
—Cennino Cennini, 14th century
Cennino’s statement that studying from nature is the best way to learn to draw is something that resonates today. My question is, what constitutes “copying from nature”? Is drawing from photographs the same as drawing from life? Or is working from photos more like copying the work of another artist? The question is of practical importance, because as Cennino pointed out, studying the work of another artist will influence one’s personal style.
We cannot separate how we see from the way photography has informed our vision.
. . . it is best to remember that every object made by man carries within it the evidence of the time and place of its manufacture.
–Joseph Veach Nobel
If an artist draws from photos, does he or she inevitably absorb the unique “style” of the camera (not to mention the style of the photographer)?