Sunday, November 20, 2011

Using Reference

One of the myths that all artists have to dispel is that we all make it up out of our heads. Everything that ends up on the drawing board is a distillation of the mass of influences that permeate our lives. While some artists might claim they don't use reference, they might more honestly explain that they can't remember where they got their inspiration from. As Mark Twain wryly commented, "amateurs are inspired. Professionals plaguerize."

Above is a painting that I finished a week or so ago of a character I have been developing called Gris Gris Girl. So here is a look at the working process from start to finish.

This is the original rough I did for the painting. I had picked out the model in the photo below for what I thought worked for my character. However, as I was going through more scrap, I came across the second photo and realized this model has much more of the attitude and character that I needed for the story.

For the Voodoo elements of the picture I went to my files on this subject and picked out a few items. From these I selected bits and pieces for arcane props that would apply.

I have no shortage of cat reference pictures, and my little friend Repo wound up modeling for the feline in this shot. For the crow, I googled some reference off the net. For the tree and the swamp reference I went to my personal library and found a National Geographic book with the right image.
Even for color I tend to look at a lot of stuff. While I loved the model I chose for the picture, I had to find some different reference for the proper skin tones for a black woman. Playboy is always a good source. I also pulled out some Bob Peak drawings that used very hot colors that work very well on darker skin. 

I started a storyboarding job this week that will keep me fairly busy for the next few weeks, so my blog might be a bit irregular for a couple months. But I will have lots of time to think about what I want to rant about next.
My lovely wife Annie and myself in a recent photo.


  1. Nice write-up. Using references insure that we get what we want out of each piece. Congrats on the storyboarding gig!

  2. Thanks Tony. My niece was asking me the other day how I got jobs, and I told her that they literally fall out of the sky.

  3. Ah, Venice Kong, Miss September of 1985. That was my very first issue of Playboy. Some sweet lessons to be found here, Mike.