While artists try to be as original as possible, we don’t operate in a vacuum, nor can we know every detail about everything we’re asked to illustrate.
Before the internet age, artists had to work from life or they had to take from those things with which they were familiar and make up the rest. After that, they may have borrowed from one another for reference, and when photography and print were finally available, they may have photographed their own reference or worked from photographs in books or magazines.
Today, the internet provides a mine of reference from which to work (unfortunately, it also provides a mine from which unscrupulous persons will steal your work, but that’s another topic altogether). So there’s no reason artists can’t find reference from which to work these days.
Still, there are plenty of times you’ll come across things in life that you realize will make for interesting reference, so you can make a note of going back to it later or you can take a picture and file it away. Sometimes I’ll do some sketch to file away for future reference as well.
Recently I attended a local play put on by a children’s drama group. One boy looked interesting in his oversized clothing and goatee, so I had my wife take a snapshot with her iPod and I did a colored sketch to have as future reference.
So what I’m showing you here is the blurry photo (which I’ll discard) of the kid in the play and my colored sketch I’ll be keeping for some future project where it might come in handy (though it may get tweaked to accommodate any future use).
And there you have it. A little insight into my work. So what do y’all do for inspiration or reference?
Honestly, if I had to spend half of my day in traffic driving to work, I wouldn’t do it. Life is just too short to waste that much time and be away from my family.