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How To CORRECTLY REFERENCE in Animation

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You know, every artist/animator works their ass off to capture the magic of life and transpose it onto a CANV-ass. Whether the medium is animation, digital illustration, charcoal drawings, or any other art you can think of, We can ASS-ume reference is key. So what’re we talking about here? 

MY ASS-

Many animators use references incorrectly. You might be questioning, are you one of them?

Let’s start by making one thing crystal clear: Reference isn’t cheating. 

I repeat: Reference isnt cheating. 

Now you heard me? Ok repeat after me “ REFERENCE ISNT CHEATING”  

Many artists take personal pride in drawing from their imagination.

They puff out their chests and go like “DUH I don’t need reference, it all comes from up here.” 

(whisper: and I know this feeling well because I used to be just like that.)

But dude, time to get off that high horse MANNNN, before you trip over your own ass.

You see, all artists need reference. 

Whatever you say about the stuff you’re pulling from your head up there, they are based on what you’ve observed in life. 

You may take bits from here and there, like the head of a snake and the body of a giraffe, but even your final GIR-AKE is a product of reference. 

… Wut the fu- is this

It is remarkably foolish to succumb to pride and not use every resource you have around you to do the best work you can. 

Oh what’s that you say? But that’s cheating? Hello and No. This is Art, not some sport my guy.

Once you realize how valuable a reference can be, you can fall into a trap. You can become a slave to reference.

I have watched so many videos of animators acting out crazy, over-the-top motions while shooting their own video reference for a shot. Then they transpose those actions almost directly onto their character. This is no longer “reference”. This is copying. 

The whole point of reference is literally, refer to. Lemme tell you this:

“You can’t draw what you don’t know. You just can’t” 

You have to look at stuff all the time so reference is indeed important. People who think it’s cheating simply don’t know what they’re talking about.

While you are creating your illustration or animation, you pull bits from different pieces of reference to craft something new and unique. It is not there to copy directly. It is there to inspire and spark ideas.

Using references in art is like a chef taste testing new foods, in order to know what they’re drawing for.

Not only is it acceptable, it’s absolutely expected and often mandated in art schools and academic training. I remember in art school they typically encourage you to work from live references whenever possible but you’re not always going to have access to a live model so photo references become important too.

It’s not like you can go:

Hey dear, can you pose nude for me? I gotta draw something like a french mother-father.

Sure..but can you stop staring and start drawing?

To be very real with you guys, I have no idea where this thought came from in which people assume artists are supposed to just work from their head but it’s 100% NOT what most artists do or what art schools teach or what artists have done in the past.

Think about the great art that’s been created throughout history, the really famous works, and then think about how many of those were made by some bullsh*t artist sitting down in front of someone, something, or some place, and drawing or painting it.

Who gives a shit if some guy gets on YouTube and draws a cat fighting a bear or whatever without using a reference? 

Yeah that’s me I’m terrible but you get the POINT!

The only way anyone CAN work from their head is after they’ve been working and practicing for long enough to have a huge mental bank of visual images and enough familiarity with the things they’re drawing to be able to just make it up as they go. 

Even artists you see working from memory frequently, like comic book artists, still frequently use references for subjects they aren’t familiar enough with. 

There is nothing wrong with using reference. In fact, you should use it in almost every situation! Even the great masters of animation use reference, or do hundreds of studies to make a mental library before they begin their work. 

The purpose of any animation is to tell a story through moving pictures, and as an animator, your job is to bring inanimate objects to life in a BELIEVABLE WAY. 

So do yo damn job for frix sake!

Here’s where reference plays a very important role. Reference is simply a guide artists use to create a certain look and feel in their work. Without it, it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to animate or illustrate anything to have a sense of believability and appeal. Reference exists as a tool to push you further. Don’t stop at reference, go past it into wonderful, inspiring new places.

I hope this video has helped you understand that REFERENCE is not cheating or whatever that belief may be. 

If you found this helpful and like what you saw, do subscribe if you haven’t, and I promise I won’t use you as reference LoL

But seriously, do you ever wonder why people say “For Your Reference?” Exactly. Bcos It’s there for you to reference. I rest my case and see you in the next one ma bears!

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