The following excerpts are from email correspondence with artist/teacher, Joanne Julian and are reprinted here with her kind permission. Our own K Rowland was an art student of Joanne's. Joanne is not only a talented artist but also a gifted writer. Drop by her web page HERE and check out her work and accomplishments.
Words of Wisdom on Painting from Life vs Painting from Photographs by Joanne Julian...
Don't forget to draw/paint from life. Within the creative process, it is more of a direct hit, and the subject matter will breathe through you. You may not believe me, but the photo is an intermediary step that you may feel assists you with accuracy, but truly, it dilutes the essence of the subject. Rather than choosing technical accuracy as the goal, I think it is ultimately better to practice from life a few more times, and aim to own the essence and authenticity of the thing. That moves beyond accuracy to the truth of your personal vision, and you own it forever. Truth (the relationship between you, your vision and the subject) comes through your own brain, eye and hand not the camera. And better still, it breeds confidence. That's how it is you and how you are creative. Trust yourself. Why would you want anything else? The rewards and the wisdom gained are immeasureable.
The two big issues seem to be fear and risk. The first we have too much of and the second never enough. Unless one has made the decision to become solely a technical painter, copying photographs (even techniques), especially among students, can tend to develop bad habits and inhibit creativity. Early on, when students receive accolades for achieving a likeness, they are often lured (or perhaps they even lure themselves) into thinking that technical prowess is art. It is not; just as developing good grammar does not make great literature. Used as a point of departure, however, photographs coupled with risk and innovation can be catalysts on a creative path. Form without content can be empty. Content without form can be selfish gibberish. Both can be boring or uncommunicative.
Perhaps an antidote to some of that fear is a clearer understanding of the depth and breadth of the elements and principles of design and their use to advance composition and ultimately communication in the same ways they are applicable in music and dance. An investment here far outweighs the security of a photograph.
Thanks Joanne for sharing your words of wisdom with us concerning the importance of painting from life.