Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login


Closed to new replies
December 27, 2012


Replies: 13

How do you draw without reference?

BorogoveLM Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Student General Artist
I am often old that I am talented. This is usually by art teachers. This is because Art classes tend to focus around drawing from reality. I have no difficulty with that. How can one not draw something if it's right there?

However, when I try to really be creative, and draw from my imagination, it looks like shit.

I don't understand: how is it done? How do draw without seeing? is there a process for it? Everyone I know seems like they "just can",and I "just can't". How? How do you do it?!

You can no longer comment on this thread as it was closed due to no activity for a month.

Devious Comments

jerseycajun Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
If you are drawing to understand what you see not as a flat image but as a figure/object with three dimensional volume and weight, then eventually the understanding will 'click' and you will be able to see and manipulate new volumes and shapes with weight and depth either with realism or design in mind.

I will say that while you are not without any understanding, you seem to still have a ways to go before the moment when it all 'clicks'. Don't give up. Though it's practically a mantra of artistic advice, "keep practicing" is about the only thing you can really do, just make sure that while you're practicing, you're really trying to understand the physicality of what you're drawing as it's very easy to 'practice' without attention and diligence, sometimes losing the forest for the trees.
Glori305 Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012
The only professional illustrator I ever met had been in the industry for over 20 years, and still used refrences. It's not a bad thing. However, the best way to be able to draw without a refrence, is to start simple, and build your way up, and have a good grasp of how things look from every angle prior to starting. So if, for example, you want to draw a person, you need to be intimately familar with how people look, thin and fat, old and young, and how they move, how far an elbow can bend, what knees do when someone kneels etc. You get better at drawing from your imagination, when you know how to draw all these things well off the top of your head. So if you are wanting to draw castles, gather pictures of castles, from every angle and every shape, and draw them. Get a lego castle set build it, and draw it from 3 differnt angles, then put it together differently, and draw that from 3 different angles....THEN try to draw a castle from your imagination. And that process will need to be repeated for anything you want to draw from the imagination, you need to be able to build up the 3D idea of what the object is in your mind, prior to putting it on paper.
EldingaGunman Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012
By having an understanding on how things are built. You can copy images all you want, but if you don't have any understanding of what it is you are drawing, you might as well be copying abstract art - impossible to re-draw from another angle.
Ceruulean Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012   General Artist
I think if you draw a certain object enough with references, you can draw it from memory. I tried drawing wolf paws some time ago but I couldn't get them to look right until I looked at some photos. So like someone else said, if you draw tons of birds using references from all different angles and perspectives, it would be easier to draw birds from your imagination. Also, fantasy creatures tend to be easier because they don't exist in real life and are a mosh of parts seen in real life.
5minalone Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012   Traditional Artist
Learned to create photos in my mind of everything then its just a zen thing of letting go and hope for the best.
Vineris Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
By remembering what everything is supposed to look like and where it's supposed to go. Now... the world is really complicated, so obviously noticing things like proportions and remembering them is going to take a long time. And you're probably never going to remember how to draw everything from every angle under every lighting condition. But you can certainly get to the point where you can draw basic 3D shapes like cubes and cylinders in perspective and shade them from memory, and then you can use those as mnemonics to help you draw more complicated shapes and light them.

If you want to draw from your head more, learn to construct people and scenes from basic 3D shapes, draw them, then go back and use reference to correct where you screwed up and improve your drawing.
Mercury-Crowe Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
You have to look, see, and remember things. Then you compile them in your head into a new thing.

Draw what you know, just like writing- so you have to KNOW things.

You DO draw something you see- it's just something you SAW instead, and it's in your head.

Even things that are total fantasy are put together with real parts.
WindHydra Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You have to memorize the things you want to draw, so you kind of have to start from references. If you memorize all the details you can draw from imagination.
Aki-rain Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
*Darqx phrased it pretty well in the reply below. :D If you continue drawing from references, you will learn techniques to apply to your drawing when you're not using references. I find that drawing without references also takes much practice; you probably won't start out as well as you want, but keep working at it and drawing from references in the same time, and you'll become more confident at drawing without references.

Another part of it is being very familiar with your subject, I think. If you draw birds from references frequently, for example, it will most likely be easier to start without reference by drawing birds, and the drawing will probably look better than if you had drawn something that you'd only explored a small amount before.
Darqx Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You take the things that you've learned drawing from reality (such as how to block something out, the general proportions of things, how to draw in perspective etc) and apply it to drawing from your imagination. It gets easier with practice.
DamaiMikaz Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Understand how imaginary paintings relate to reality.
The rules for color, anatomy and perspective are often the same as in reality.
kadirstuary Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Student General Artist
If there's something I'm particularly imagining I'll look for objects similar and try draw a combination of them... if that makes any sense... ^^;
Morgane13 Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
it all depends on what you really what to draw ?
for example one of my best friends can draw dragons or any fantasy creatures as if it was no big deal ..but I can't.
the fact is that she is used to do so ... mean if you know the base can alter it ~
to make a cake you take almost every time the same base ingredients but the true genius once he knows how each ingredients taste can go and mix new ingredients to make an original cake !

my advice : draw some 'skulls' of what you wish to draw then make your own !
(to do pose you never see before use a mirror or a friend ~)
Add a Comment: