Jul 3rd, 2011, 05:12 AM
It's about being well-rounded and actually having skill. You won't ALWAYS draw from life. You can easily end up using straight-up references more than half the time. but when you're learning it's critical to draw from life.
You should focus on drawing from life while you're learning because that will guarantee that you know how to do it. There are a lot of reasons why you should know how, many of which are ignored by young artists. This is a wonderful thing for their competitors; if you can draw expertly from a photo but struggle with drawing from life, you're a cripple.
I'll keep it to only a couple of reasons. First of all, photographs distort, flatten, and present images for you on a silver plate. You're just copying and rendering, skipping (and therefore not practicing) a slew of critical artistic decisions that naturally occur when you draw from life and have to represent a three dimensional object on a two dimensional plane yourself. You obviously make artistic decisions when you take the photo, but those are not drawing decisions. You're out of your comfort zone, and you inadvertently focus far more on accuracy (even though it's frustrating at first). If you can draw well from life, you WILL be able to draw from a photo. Being able to draw from a photo does not at ALL guarantee that you can draw from life.
Things change. Lighting changes, the model moves, something gets messed up. You then have to fix it on the page yourself. If someone is sitting for you, you're on a time limit (once again developing speed is healthy for you as an artist. You can ALWAYS take your time... but unless you practice, you won't be able to draw quickly. Drawing quickly unifies the drawing far better and allows for accurate underdrawings in a short period of time, which in turn leaves PLENTY of time for the detail work. The more fluid, accurate, and natural the underdrawing, the better the final result. Invariably.) If you want to be accurate, you are forced to abandon area drawing (critical) if you have that problem. You stand far away from the model and have to focus on spending most of your time staring very intently at the model while only able to steal quick glances at your paper. This increases accuracy by improving observational skills. Once you have accuracy and speed, you can move back to using references and focus on improving your rendering. Accuracy and speed, accuracy and speed, always accuracy and speed. Once you get a handle on those, then you can move on with confidence. Plus, you'll get better quicker.
I think I'll stop there and keep it as an internet post, instead of having to rewrite it as an essay while really going into lighting and perspective