Virtual Sketching: Sketching & Drawing from Images, Google Streetview and MapCrunch

Many people have been talking about the new normal ever since WHO declared the world is experiencing an unprecedented pandemic of the Coronavirus. Artists who loved location drawing and plein air face a new normal too. Not able to go out to draw and paint during the lockdown, so they have been approaching drawing & painting differently: to draw and paint from images. Not only that, Google Map Streetview has been popular among artists who love to travel, but now it was virtually. To satisfy their desire to travel and sketch, Google Streetview and Mapcruch have been the go to places. At the same time, friends have been sharing their old travel photos so everyone could draw from one source and compare with each other later. This activity has seen many artists coped and went about the lonesome lockdown and being stuck at home. The whole virtual sketching activity has also went global thanks to the help of social media. 

Ink and wash - Jia Hou Road, Taichung (image shared by Tan Jit Seng)

The image source for Jia HOu Road, Taichung.

Ink drawing and coloured in Procreate - Penang kopitiam

Ink and wash of Penang Kopitiam (image shared by Ren Hui)

Streets of Vietnam
Since April 2020, I have been engaged in virtual sketching and painting from photos and streetviews. These are just some of the artworks I have done but I will be sharing and posting more. 

Since the invention of the camera and photography, artists have been referencing from photos to paint and draw. It is not uncommon to use images and photos as references. Many concept artists did rely on photo sources for a long time. However, it is notable to know that these artists were not copying directly from the images they were looking at., Many a times, these photos served as a guide from which they drew ideas and rearranging the components to create a completely new design and composition. It is important for beginning artists to understand the process so they are learning from the photo sources than just simply copy wholesale. 

To draw from images, my focus is usually on materials and tools exploration, and also the expression of the visual language like lines, shapes and form; light and shadow components also become very important here. Instead of copying what you see in the image, improvise to suit your composition. We also do this even when we are drawing from life. A mature artist approaches drawing and painting very differently. It will take more than a post to explain everything. 

One thing that I have learned from sketching from image. Sometimes we stay true to what we see from the image. Sometime we deviate according to our concept and design. We need to find a way that works for us. Use the image as a guide. There is no need to draw a "likeness". We improvise by changing the proportions, lighting conditions, colours and framing to work out a compositional structure: focus and visual path. The difference between drawing from life and drawing from images is: the photo we used is already 2D. Henceforth the process of "flattening" what we see with our eyes is canceled and the process becomes a lot easier. 

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