Hot! How to Draw with David Nestler—No. 14 (Using a Camera)


Fig. #1

I’ve been pretty happy with the progression of this How To article. We started with simple basics and moved on to more dedicated and specific tips and techniques, all with the intention of providing you with more ammunition to add to your artistic arsenal. I could keep going on this same path, adding even more obscure tips and observations that I employ in my drawings and paintings, in the hopes of making you a better artist. But I believe this column would be better served by going back to the beginning, starting with the basics and expanding on each subject much more than I did in prior issues.

Let’s start with the first thing you’ll need for the development of a great drawing or painting; and that’s photo reference. If you’ve been an ongoing reader, you know that this is a particular pet peeve of mine, and I’ve been beating you to death issue after issue about the quality of your photo references and how important they can be. And since I am a pinup artist, let’s talk about shooting people for reference. It’s no mystery I paint pretty girls for a living, and all my paintings are based on real models. So, for me, a good clean, hi-res photo is absolutely necessary, if I’m going to capture the likeness of the subject I’m drawing or painting. Let’s be clear, I’m not a photographer. I don’t know my aperture from my F-stops, but we’re not shooting for print here, we’re shooting for reference. A photographer shooting for print will take hundreds of shots to get that “ONE” image. As an artist, I just need something clean and in focus to draw from. For this example, let’s look at the cover I did for the June 2009 issue of Skin&Ink (Fig.1) featuring world-class fitness model Jamie Eason. The idea was for a summer/ beach/ bikini/ surf theme suggested by the original Coppertone ad, with the little girl and the dog, from the ’60s.

Since continually on the road doing conventions, I shoot out of hotel rooms. No fancy studio, no professional lighting or backdrops. Just me and my ten megapixel Canon Rebel set on automatic with an internal flash. Remember, this is for reference, not print. I need two things for reference when I shoot: a full body shot and a good facial pic. I shoot them separately, so as not to rely on that “ONE” shot where both are perfect. And with the benefits of a digital camera, I don’t have to wait for film development anymore. I can shoot a dozen pics, review them and, if I don’t like what I see, I can delete them and start over.

Let’s look at Fig. #2. I have the idea in my head as to what I want, so I shot Jamie in that position, remembering to fill the frame and get the image as large as I can. This makes for a more detailed image later, when I output it. Once I’m happy with the body positioning, I close in and shoot for different facial expressions (fig. #3). It’s amazing how much difference there is by simply moving the face up and down just the smallest amount. It’s just a matter of choosing one from “Column A” and one from “Column B.” Combine the best of both and you’ve got the perfect reference.

Quick Tip: When your combining the face from one picture to the body of another, it’s easy just to eyeball it. A good measuring tip, in order to get them dead-on, is to measure the distance from the hairline to the tip of the jaw and adjust that equal the distances of your other pic. In preparing this piece, I did a third shot, a separate pic of the hand ( Fig. #4 ), just so I have a large clear pic to work from.

Fig. #4

There’s no real science behind this. It’s just clarity. A good, clean hi-res photo makes your job so much easier.


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1 Comment

  1. I have really enjoyed this series of articles. The advice not to draw it just because you can see it is really worth remembering. Also the idea of concentrating emphasis on the important areas e.g. eyes. It’s too easy to get bogged down in unneccessary details. Thank you for putting these together.

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