Why I use photo references.
When I carve my wildlife sculptures I will use allot of photo references. I get my images from the internet of the specific species of bear I am working on in different positions.
Essentially I am getting as many angles as possible so that I can understand how to sculpt the animal in 360 degrees.
When you creating a painting you only need one angle because a painting is flat, and so you only need one angle. Painting is a different process than sculpting. There are similarities but there is differences also.
When I started carving I decided to use photo references in my process because I wanted to understand the accurate way to sculpt the particular animal I was working on. I have spent years working from memory or ‘no references’ and seeing what kinds of expressions come from that. I have spent years working directly from life doing life drawing and life painting and seeing what kinds of expressions come from that.
One thing I have noticed is that when you work from ‘imagination’ you are working from a picture. You are working from a picture in your mind. That picture in your mind was formed from all the pictures of the particular point you are referencing throughout your life. So, then, what is the difference between using a photo reference that you hold in your hand versus using a photo reference that you hold in your mind.
I have found that my mind tends to be a bit more transient where to hold a physical photo reference really helps grounding me in the information I am looking at where in the mind it seems the information I can extract is less specific and I lose sight of the image easily.
So maybe it is a question about access?
Accessing the information you have acquired where for instance I have found I am not able to access as much detail by looking at an image in my mind versus looking at an actual photo.
Now this brings me to the point of DIRECT SEEING.
One point that I am practicing when I use photo references is ‘Direct Seeing’
People have the tendency to ‘interpret’ things. But within this often the ‘truth’ get lost. Throughout the last 7 years of my life, I have more and more aligned myself with DIRECT SEEING. This Direct Seeing process actually has little to do with art. It has more to do with my real life and who I have become within my real life, and the CONSEQUENCES that INTERPRETATION has had on this World, and so I have recognized for myself the value and imperative for DIRECT SEEING rather than Interpretation where Interpretation is EASY. It is something that we do all the time. Have you ever read a news article where you kind of just scanned and jumped your way through the article to get the general gist of what was being said. That is Interpretation. DIRECT SEEING would be to read the entire article thoroughly and to understanding completely what was being said. I see the later as more valuable and substantial to the human being and human development.
One reason I have aligned myself with DIRECT SEEING and practicing this within my life is because I have realized how little I actually know about myself, and how LIFE FUNCTIONS where for instance from my perspective, the fact that we don’t actually know where we come from as Life is a result of a kind of INTERPRETATION, of not bothering to look at the facts. I realized that in my late 20’s that I had no idea how I created myself. I had thoughts, and emotions and experiences existing within me and I had no idea where they came from, and from a certain perspective I found myself overwhelmed by what was going on inside of me and so I began a process of DIRECT SEEING, of pushing myself to SEE HOW THINGS REALLY WORK, and stop trying to fill in the gaps with interpretation where you don’t actually understand the functionality of something but rather have an incomplete picture yet you have convinced yourself you understand. As a result, we LOSE DIRECTIVE PRINCIPLE of ourselves as human beings, as creators, because we don’t know how we work.
So I began to align myself with practicing DIRECT SEEING – Seeing what is really in front of me.
Another example is in communication, when you interpret someone’s words or – here’s a good one – where you create an IDEA in your mind about someone, like someone you like but have never really talked to at length, and then you think you really like this person, but then you finally go and talk to them and who they really are is NOT AT ALL what you interpreted and made-up in your head. So Interpretation is essentially just ‘making things up’. And I see this as making things up based on the information YOU ALREADY HAVE, and so from that perspective you don’t LEARN anything new, you just “Interpret” which is an expression of using what you already have and forming a particular opinion or idea or form.
So when I began carving 2 and half years ago, I used photo references to start to build up my information base of the animals I carve. I did not want to “make anything up”
I questioned what information I would use to fill in the gaps for instance when I was carving a bear and I didn’t have a direct reference for something like the back of the foot, or the shoulder. I could ‘make it up’ and it would probably look fine, and at times I do. But I at this stage push myself to understand the actual information and how it really works and fits together.
Look at the state of our world right now, wars, poverty, violence, everywhere, total destruction really. Yet no solutions on how to really go about fixing it. Most people have no idea how the system we live in functions or how money actually works, and i would challenge if those running the country even understand how things really work. Could anybody that truly understands how things work justify using violence against another life form as an apparent solution? To me, war and violence stems from a lack of understanding or ignorance of who we are as life, and so, I see DIRECT SEEING is important to start cultivating in this world to answer some of these problems we face.
So that is why I currently use photo references. Who knows, maybe someday I will lose the references and take the artwork in a different direction.
I am not to strict with myself. I am fine to interpret, but this must be a deliberate decision and not something done out of laziness.
When you write a research paper. It is important to do the research about the topic. If you do no research, you could probably write the paper but the content would likely be generalized and uninformative. This is the approach I take when I carve an animal. It is a research project, and I must do the research, about how the anatomy fits together.
Id like my projects to be expressive and Informative so I use photos as sources of information to utilize.
I also think that people respond better to ‘realism’ I think interpretation is easier and so that if I focus on developing a certain degree of realism that it will give me an edge in the art I make because I am actually creating something more ‘rare’ and so using photo references is also linked to this point of creating something that people will find valuable and see as unique. There is allot of art there, and I see ‘realism’ as a challenge that the minority of artists take on in their work. I don’t think it makes one persons art better or worse. Its a personal choice also of where I am at and what I see will benefit my own personal development and human being. For others, perhaps practicing letting go would be more beneficial to them in their lives and maybe someday I will be at that point, but for now, I focus on adding that dimension of realism to the sculptures I am creating.
So there is some insight into why I currently use photo references while I carve.