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The Importance of Reference, Proportions, and Feedback | Grady Pruitt
Washington Quote

Washington Quote

Weekly breakdown

  • Time Spent in Blender:  8 – 9 hours
  • Streaming: 2 to 3 hours

Overall, the week was a success.  I managed to get quite a bit done and even experimented with Periscope.

Over the last week, I’ve been reminded of the importance of using a reference and also that proportions are important.  The first is something that I’ve already learned, yet it something that never seems to get old.  The other is more of a new lesson for me, at least when it comes to creating art, but it is just as important to understand.

Oh, and feedback is invaluable!

Using Reference

References are an important part of any ongoing project.  Since I started using references, I can see a big difference in my overall technique and the way my images turn out.  References are important on everything from the models to the posing, texturing, and more.  In fact, I’d venture to say that there isn’t a step in 3D modeling and rendering that could not be made better by using references.  Artists for ages have used references to perfect their work.  Those who don’t use references probably linger in obscurity.

…what I learned about references is that we shouldn’t just rely on photo references.

This week, what I learned about references is that we shouldn’t just rely on photo references.  The camera lens distorts things, so we need to include in our references some that reduce or eliminate the distortions.  One way to do this is by using physical measurements.  In the piece I was working on this week, for example, I was working on a project based on myself.  Since the project was based on me, I had the model handy and could make the measurements I needed to make sure that things were right.  But sometimes, that references isn’t available, and even when it is, it might be useful to have another resource that can show general relationships.  Which brings me to the next topic:

Proportions are important

One thing that came up in feedback this week (more on this in a second) was that my proportions were off.  My body was too short, the length of limbs were off, the positioning of knuckles was wrong… All over my 3D model, things weren’t right.  To me, and my as yet untrained eye, nothing seemed amiss.  In fact, to me, it looked very much like the image I had used for references.  In fact, I tried to argue that I had used photo references to create what I had done to that point.  That was when I was reminded of the distortion of the camera lens.  

See, I knew this… I just didn’t think it was important in this case.  But I learned that I was wrong.

When I started making the changes to the proportions, things overall started looking much better.

When I started making the changes to the proportions, things overall started looking much better.  More realistic.  Easier to manage. In fact, I was amazed how much better things looked when I fix things.  

It wasn’t easy, either.  I knew my model was the right height.  After all, I had the measurements to know what I needed as far as height.  But what I didn’t have right was the size of the head in relation  to other parts of the body.  And that’s where the additional references came it.  Not only was I able to confirm the information I was getting from my feedback in the measurements of my reference model (in this case, myself), but I was also able to learn other key relations throughout that made things look much better.

I’m still working on tweaking some parts after adjusting these proportional differences so that it comes closer to matching the reference again, but even so, it looks much better overall.  And that brings me again to my 3rd point:

Feedback is critical

I didn’t want to hear it.  I wanted to argue with it.  But in the end, I tried it, and realized that the feedback was right.

Feedback is a constant struggle for me.  I have this one group that I’m a part of that consistently gives me excellent feedback.  Feedback that if I were to take it to heart will improve my work.

But I always seem to fight it. I justify the way I did things.  Try to prove that I’m right and I know better.  

I wind up losing.  Every time.  Not really, though.  Because while I grudgingly give in and give the suggestions a try, they nearly always make things better in the long run.

And it hasn’t just been on this project.  I’ve had 2 or 3 other projects where they’ve made suggestions that, when implemented, made my work better.  

Here’s the thing, though.  Feedback is critical to improving your artwork, and not just for those of us learning the craft.  Even experienced artist can benefit from feedback.  Why?  

  1. We don’t know.
  2. We’re too close.

Sometimes, we don’t know about something.  For me, in this instance, I haven’t (yet) made a detailed study of anatomy.  I wasn’t aware of the relationships between the head and different parts of the body.  I knew some things, but not as much as I learned after checking out some references. If someone hadn’t pointed it out, I might never have known.  But we can’t know everything.  Even an experienced artist might miss a detail that someone more familiar with a given subject might know.  That’s why it’s important to not only get feedback from other artists, but also from those who might be bit more familiar with whatever you’re trying to recreate.

And other times, we’re too close.  We’re too tied up in what is going on.  We become blind to the flaws because we don’t notice them. We might actually know that a body is about 3 heads wide, but totally miss that because we’re so focused on other aspects that we might miss something more basic.  Maybe we noticed some detail was missing and intended to put it in, but got distracted by something else and never got around to adding that detail.  Whatever the reason, it’s easy for us to miss something even if we know it’s something that needs to be there.

That’s why feedback is so important.  It helps us catch those things that we’ve missed, either by mistake or because we didn’t know.

That’s why feedback is so important.  It helps us catch those things that we’ve missed, either by mistake or because we didn’t know.  Things that once we’ve made the correction, it makes our work better, stronger.  

Now, I’m not saying all feedback is right.  I’ve gotten feedback in the past that went counter to my stated intent or purpose.  Sometimes, I can tell that the feedback isn’t quite what I’m looking for on the project I happen to be working on.  But I’m learning (slowly as that may be) that there are those out there who take what you state as your intent and purpose and make comments that work within what you’re trying to do that will make your work better.  At the very least, you should think about the feedback you’ve been given and think if there is any truth to it that you might be missing or unaware of and if it truly is something you should consider changing.

I’m still working on fixing the proportions on my main project that I’ve been working on this week, but the feedback that I’ve gotten has made my work better, even if it was resisted at first, especially when I started consulting other references to verify what I was being told in my feedback.  Overall, I’m pleased with how things have progressed over the last week, and I’m looking forward to what I will accomplish in the week ahead!

Goals for this next week:

Over the next week, I want to try to finish the sculpt I’m working on for my friend. I think that I’m getting close enough that I should be able to do that if I dedicated 2 or 3 hours to working on that project.  On my self portrait project, I want to finish up the modeling and sculpting detail and work some on the texturing of the character.  I’d also like to get the base rig in place and start tweaking it so that I can begin to pose the character.  

While I’m enjoying the Periscope sessions, I’m not particularly crazy about the video quality I’m getting.  I do like the aspect of interacting with an audience/chat room while I’m working.  If I could find a way to do this with a screen capture that can get better video of what I’m working on (and possibly take advantage of the recording setup I have for the audio) while having access to a chat room that I can follow and respond with, that would be ideal.  I think I would also like to record a screen capture session where I talk about what I’m doing and why to post on YouTube.  Not necessarily a tutorial session, though some who are familiar enough with Blender could probably follow along and maybe learn something, but something even a “casual” art fan who likes watching a working artist might enjoy.  I’ll have to look into these ideas this week.

I’d also like to work on my drawing skills this week.  I have it in my Todoist app, but keep “postponing” that task.  Maybe I should change the time frame on it and Periscope those sessions instead of the 3D ones.  I’m still learning, but maybe someone might find it interesting.

One last goal for this week or next would be to see if I can find an affordable solution for doing prints.  I have some inspirational posters that I’d like to start selling if I can find the right balance of quality and affordability as well as a method of getting the art to the buyer and in a way that is easy to track and do.  I know there’s sites like Zazzle and Cafe Press, but I’m not sure if this is the route I want to take. It might work for the inspirational stuff, but not necessarily for the more artsy stuff and I’d like to be able to set up a shop here on my site where everything is handled “invisibly behind the scenes” without the patron knowing it was sourced some other way if possible  

Tell me what you think of this post format.  Does it work? I enjoyed writing this Recap, Lesson, Goals format, but wonder if you found it interesting or helpful.  Let me know in the comments below!

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Coloredcubes xxsm

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