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Drawing from Life versus Imagination

Drawing from Life versus Imagination

Question from Tyler, Drawing Academy student

“Most of the time I spend sketching is purely from imagination using constructive drawing principles, but I must ask, while I know drawing from imagination works, what are the benefits of drawing from life that drawing from imagination doesn’t provide?”

Answer from Vladimir London, Drawing Academy tutor
Illustrations by Vladimir London

Hi Tyler,

Many thanks for your question.

The answer is very simple – when constructively drawing from life, you learn new things about the world around you.

For example, when you draw an architectural detail – let’s say a Corinthian order capital – you learn its constructions, how many leaves it has, its proportions and shapes. So next time, when you draw from imagination, you can recall this information and draw convincing images of classical architecture in Corinthian order. Of course you could imagine or invent what a column capital could be, but you will miss the rich heritage of classical canons, styles, and culture accumulated through countless generations before you.

Drawing from Life versus Imagination

Here’s another example – you can draw trees from imagination, but without studying in drawing from life particular trees branches and leaves, your artworks might look generic and not life-like.

Drawing from Life versus Imagination

The same goes for figurative drawings. By drawing from imagination, you cannot invent a human body anatomy and proportions. However, when drawing models from life, you learn a great deal about this subject.

Drawing from Life versus Imagination
Portrait by Vladimir London. Oil on Saunders Waterford 100% cotton paper, Escoda Kolinsky Tajmyr brushes

I hope this gives you a good reason to draw more from life.

Let me know if you have any questions; I will be happy to help.

Best regards,
Vladimir

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