Far too often I think I can make up what ever content I need in my artworks…work from ‘imagination’…when really I cannot, or rather should not.
I love reference gathering – researching new ideas, discovering textures, awareness of materials, new gestures and anatomies, etc. I seek not to blatantly copy my references (mostly the photographs I use), but rather seek to educate and inform my mind’s eye.
I want to see the raw ‘truths’ that unfiltered information can present, and by unfiltered, I mean not heavily reinterpreted by another artist/illustrator. I want the ‘science’ in the art. I realize all photographs are ‘filtered’ in some way, but in comparison to modified illustrations, they offer the easiest and closest path to direct observation.
Photographic reference is used to provide me with a level of accuracy which artistic memory recall is not good enough for my needs or desires – whether it be about formal qualities of shape, lighting, color, anatomy, textures, etc… I want to be able to selectively discriminate what information I wish to interpret from an element, and what to leave out.
With that said, my photographic references need not be ‘perfect’ as the information I glean from each image may only need to provide one aspect of an element’s formal nature. I am always bending the information I pull from references to the needs of my narration, color, composition, and design.
The use of reference is just one aspect of tools used in storytelling and building a ‘realistic’ painting. It is a way to help me fill in the details I am chasing in my mind and harden the choices I wish to pursue.
Below are most of the references gathered for this recent Empathetic Robot series painting exploring artificial intelligence, Remembering. As a personal piece I wanted, and had the time, to ‘close’ all the open loops of visual questions. This demanded a tremendous amount of reference content but allowed me to feel very happy with the final results.
Most of these photos are my own and taken not for this project in particular, these have been gathered over time in celebration of the fascinating world about me.
Some times it’s best not to use your imagination, as nature can be far more wonderful.