Lately most of my figure drawings have been from photos. I would prefer that all my drawing of the figure come from actual observation of a live model but getting to open studios daily is costly and impossible with my work schedule. So I draw from photos on my Ipad and settle for an open studio once a week. Tonight I tried drawing from youtube.
I used to have a very specific opinion that drawing the figure, and everything else, should only be from life. But, this led to me doing still life almost exclusively with barely 3 hours of drawing from a model a week which is not acceptable. When faced with drawing figure from photos or not drawing at all, I picked the photos.
I have heard people say that drawing from photos is easier and some have said that drawing from photos is harder. Honestly, like everything, its not that simple. It depends on what your goal is when drawing from photos. I find that drawing gestures from photos are easier. It’s much more simple to see the larger action lines of the pose when the figure has already been flattened to two dimensions. Also most of the pose photos I draw from have been edited to work well with gesture. Value, on the other hand, is a different story. A photo will flatten, darken and kill most subtle values. Most of the subtle value changes on the surface of the figure will hint at anatomical features necessary for building a correctly rounded torso or limb and I find most of this is lost with photos. But if your goal is accuracy with simplification of values while keeping their relationships correct, then photos and drawing from youtube work well.
The bottom line is this. Drawing the figure is hard, very hard, and most of the problem for artists is accuracy. Regardless if your drawing from photo or life your still training your eye to recognize relationships, distances, angles, values, edges and simple shapes which is paramount.
The videos I’m using to draw from are made by the New Masters Academy website, check out their drawing videos here.