An Artist's Best Friend - Reference Libraries

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An Artist's Best Friend - Reference Libraries

Post by loele on Thu Oct 12, 2017 10:18 am

Reference Libraries! How many of you use one? What's your favorite method?

No matter what kind of artist you are, reference libraries are THE most helpful, essential tool you can have at your disposable.
(Besides maybe a pencil.) It sounds sort of like a basic concept, but honestly, I've only just recently began the practice of building a reference library for myself and I can't tell you how much it's helped me overall improve the quality of my work, produce work more quickly and accurately, and allowed for more imaginative work because I can combine elements of a bunch of different references together easily to produce stuff that's original.

This isn't to say you shouldn't draw directly from your imagination, a lot of artists do that. Or they do it in conjunction with drawing from references (this is what I prefer to do.) Personally, I find using references improves my skills much faster and drawing tend to look more accurate. You don't have to have a library - if it suits you better, you could just use google image search indefinitely. I just have found it to be a life saver personally! Especially when I'm in a time crunch for a project and I just need to start drawing right away.

There are many ways to develop a reference library, but I'm going to show you three methods that I know of and have tried personally.

The Old Fashioned Way: Filing Cabinets.

This is the way my art teacher did things. She would go to goodwill (or whatever thrift stores you have where you live) and buy whatever filing cabinet was cheapest - usually there's one or two beat up ones for $5. Then, find images you want to save for references and file them away. (Using filing cabinets is also a good way to sort your old drawings, too. You could sort them by year or topic, or sort them with the references in case you want to use a drawing again later.) You could also use a binder if you don't want it to take up that much room, or just use different colored files.

This method is good if you plan on using a lot of references not on the computer, such as from magazines, books etc, or if looking at a screen while you draw strains your eyes. Or some people just prefer to do everything without technology. It's also great for when you're on the go, but honestly I prefer using an app on my smart phone screen, which I'll talk about later. However, I know some people whose eyes would hurt if they tried drawing from a screen that small (tablet/ipad? idk).

A downside to this method is it takes longer to find what you're looking for, and it's kind of a hassle if you ever want something off the computer because you have to print it out.

The Middle way: Saving Files on Your Desktop

I did this one for a while. I still kind of do, for some projects. Just save whatever images you want to save on your computer. You can organize the files however you want. The downside is that it takes up space on your computer, it's hard to access on the go, and it still can be somewhat of a hassle to maneuver. An upside is you always have the option to flip your reference image - like let's say you want to know what a dog's teeth looks like, but in your drawing the dog is facing the other way from your reference, you can just flip the image horizontally and use that.

My Favorite Way: Pinterest ain't just for yo mama!

Pinterest is punk rock! Ok not really. But it's my favorite way just because of the sheer CONVENIENCE of it, my god. It's so fun. You'd be surprised that a lot of artists have caught onto this (youtube artist Audra Auclair uses one, for example) because it's just that good of tool. If you're not familiar with Pinterest, it's a social media site (one that's not really that social, technically) where you can pin images to different categories that you make. Other people can look at your boards and pin your images to their board. The more you pin, the more you'll get similar recommendations on your feed, so you'll have access to more images like that one you select as you keep using it. You can follow your friends' boards.

I like to sort my references into categories such as animals, anatomy, poses, scenery, clothing/costumes, compositions I like, color palettes I like, master studies, tutorials, art inspiration and so on and so forth. If you know you're going to be drawing a lot of tigers or something in your lifetime, make one specifically for that. Really, you can do this however you want. The upside of this method is that it's so easy, you'll get more recommendations, you can follow other artists' references libraries, you can take it on the go so you can whip out your files anywhere you are, and it takes no space on your computer. This is really my #1 method and I'm not sponsored by the website or anything haha, it's just really revolutionized my life.

Another thing: you can download a chrome app where you can save any image you see on another website onto your boards. So I try to be aware when I'm scrolling tumblr or another site and I see an image I like, I just save it to my pinterest. This way even when I'm idly scrolling I can feel like I'm doing something productive, even if saving an image is a small thing. It's just such a great way, too, to see all the art you love in one place and you can figure out what elements you want to incorporate in your own art that you gravitate towards.

Do be aware when you're saving things like anatomy studies or tutorials by other artists, that sometimes the drawings' proportions can be really off. Especially when it comes to artists who try to teach anatomy using anime figures and the like which is my pet peeve, and I like anime - but all of the best anime artists you know probably learned to draw realistic proportions before trying to draw more cartoony stuff so that's a frustrating misconception. IDK just use your best discretion I guess haha.

Anyway if you do make a reference library through pinterest or whatever you can always link it to your profile! Or, if you use a different method, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Some time in the future, I'm also going to make a community pinterest with lots of good references so those who haven't started building a library yet can have some place to start. When I do I'll probably post it here.

Thanks for reading!
Lo
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loele
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Re: An Artist's Best Friend - Reference Libraries

Post by Dqnte on Thu Oct 12, 2017 10:42 am

god yea this is really useful! My art teacher made us print every single reference so we could have it whenever we went while working, and it kinda stuck with me to have it personally in my hands. The thing is though, I'm incredibly unorganized so it takes me a Long time to find the stuff I need lol but I think having the picture right in your hands when you're first starting it's really good, specially since you could technically measure it and double or triple it without much trouble and still keep the proportions on their right places.
Going back to me being really unorganized lol- I usually just google stuff when I need it, but this also takes a lot of time if you're looking for something in specific. So if you want to do this, make sure you have enough time on your hands to sort through searches and deciding what to actually use.
You could also get lucky with some figure drawing websites that allow you to filter your searches, such as quickposes.com, but that's also a long shot.

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Re: An Artist's Best Friend - Reference Libraries

Post by loele on Thu Oct 12, 2017 12:19 pm

Yeah that's the thing, whenever I rely on google sometimes I can kill hours finding a reference I need. (But I'm Adhd so that could be why lol) And by then you've already used up a bunch of valuable time and energy. Plus I think its easier to come up with new ideas and get inspired by having all your favorite visual stuff all in one place. Its also nice if you have a specific vision or project in mind, you can make a board just for the project and gather anything you would need.

I love those random pose sites. Although I wish they used more natural poses sometimes its so nice not having to waste time! I used them for like 20 second gesture practice... which is something I've fallen out of habit practicing which could be why my figures tend to be stiff :/

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