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Are modeling apps for artists any good?

Are modeling apps for artists any good?

Question from Ed Gunderson, Drawing Academy student

I have been using an artist’s modeling app, “Handy” until I am more confident to tackle real humans. Your opinion on modeling apps?

I spent a fair amount of time looking for an online drawing course that wasn’t a waste of time and money. I’m not even sure how I found you, but I’m certainly glad it happened. I will save the review for when I finish, but I will say I greatly appreciate your methods and approach.

While talent is a lovely thing to have, determination wins out in the long haul. I leave you with a favorite quote: “Fascination and discipline are first cousins.”

Many thanks!

Feedback from Vladimir London, Drawing Academy tutor

Dear Ed,

Thank you very much for your question and positive feedback on the Drawing Academy online course.

“Handy” and other modeling apps are good for a quick reference. I like anatomy apps for that reason.

However, there’s a catch with apps – even though you can rotate models, you still draw a picture from a flat screen, and thus you do not practice and improve the following important skills:

1. Seeing in three-dimensional perspective

Copying a flat picture is much easier than drawing from life because you don’t have to subconsciously apply rules of perspective to “flatten” three-dimensional objects in your mind to draw them on paper; everything is already conveniently displayed on a screen. So, your brain, eye, and hand don’t get the needed exercise when drawing from an app.

2. Judging foreshortening by eye

The same goes for the foreshortening. We perceive differently what we see in real life. For example, an arm that is foreshortened in perspective is still understood as the full-length limb, not a short version of the normal one. An artist has to train the skill of drawing foreshortened objects. By copying from ready-rendered pictures on a screen, this skill is suppressed.

3. Measuring by eye the foreshortening planes of objects

The same is true for drawing correct proportions of planes at different angles. Thinking in three dimensions is quite a different skill from observing flat pictures at the right angle. No app can replace nor train that skill.

4. Analyzing tonal values depending on angles of planes

Understanding and therefore seeing the difference in tonal values of a uniformly colored object, depending on the angles of its planes, is an important skill for any artist. Even though you can rotate and change colors of light-sources in the “Handy” app, you still see a flat picture that comes with rendered tonal gradations. Thus your brain doesn’t do the cognitive “work-out” of analyzing tonal values in relation to the angles of the planes.

I will mention only briefly here that no app can ever replicate the infinite array of human emotions and variations of faces, figures, and poses. This is a different story.

Yes, by all means, modeling apps can be a great help to an artist. At the same time, they can be a trap that hinders your ability by copying flat images.

If you really want to develop strong drawing skills and be able to draw whatever you see, think, or imagine, then learning proper skills by drawing from life is irreplaceable.

That is why, in the Drawing Academy course, we do not advise students to copy what you see on a screen in our video lessons. Instead, you need to watch videos to understand and learn the fundamental principles of drawing and then apply those principles in your own creative works.

I hope this gives you enough to think about and helps you make your decision.

Best regards,

Vladimir London
Drawing Academy Tutor

Reply from Ed Gunderson, Drawing Academy student

Dear Mr. London,

Thank you very much for the prompt response. I kicked myself immediately after asking it as I was pretty sure I already knew the answer. I have taken your advice and have moved on to an anatomy app to work on muscles. For what it is worth, your answer did spark a moment of enlightenment. As I read it, I realized how much time I spend looking at things on a screen (and I don’t even own a TV), that I take it for granted and barely distinguish it from real life. So while I’m sorry to trouble you to repeat what you’ve already covered in lecture, it did bring insight.

I live in a remote part of the Oregon Coast, one of the most beautiful places in the world yet a little on the isolated side. I have managed to track down a group of portrait artists who meet once a month, and I am intent on joining them once my skills are up to it.

Anyway, I appreciate your answer as well as your program. I think I am thriving under its guidance.

Back to drawing,
Ed G

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Patricia L. says:

    I was using apps for artists for a while, but it feels like using a coloring book for adults. While I could copy a picture from my iPad, when it comes to drawing from life I’m lost. Is it just me, or drawing from an app is “cheating”? I’m seriously thinking to take a professional drawing course

    • JM says:

      Patricia, I feel the same way as you do :) no app would help if you don’t know how to draw in perspective… drawing from an app is like copying someone else picture instead of creating your own art

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