By Artists For Artists

Finding And Using References For Your Art

As an emerging artist, references are a key part in developing your understanding of form, colour, light, and shadow. You have to study photographs, still lifes, and yes — other people’s art to develop your sense of style, anatomy, and technicality. Even with photography, a study of others’ use of light, shadow, and ratio can inspire and drive you to create stunning visual feats. Here are some tips from the MINUS ART team for finding and using references for your art.

Inspiration Moodboards

Pinterest, Tumblr, Google Images… There are endless free sites and platforms to get inspired by different models, animals, landscapes, and artworks. Have a scroll through your interest points with a sketchbook in hand, or consider creating a mood board of looks that inspire you. 

There is no shame in referencing other people’s work as long as you credit them when you share it. Remember, referencing is not the same as tracing or copying, so make sure that you’re not misusing and misattributing someone else’s work. 

Study Human and Animal Form

References are particularly important when creating human, animal, and plant form. Those are visuals that people are hardwired to analyse and recognize through evolution and everyday experience. Developing your bank of portrait, animal, and plant images is fabulous to dip into when you need to refresh anatomy, shade, and colour of a technical piece.

Photoshoots and Photo References

If you know someone with a face that inspires you, ask them to model for you. Do the same with plants, animals, and landscapes. This way, you don’t have to worry about copyright. Alternatively, there are free and paid sources online that offer vast databases of professionally shot photo references for art. 

Remember, references are an essential tool for every artist, but more so for beginners. The more you use, the less you need to. As you improve your skill and expand your pictorial and technical knowledge bank, drawing or photographing becomes easier. Make sure you check the terms of use for all your references. Ask permission and credit the owner on your socials. Happy referencing!

Article written by Kate Smith


Written by
Send this to a friend