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Thread: Poll: Reference Photo Color sampling - Cheating?

  1. #1
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    Poll: Reference Photo Color sampling - Cheating?

    Hello All:

    Just wanted to conduct a poll here: Please answer truthfully

    When painting a piece based on (or at least inspired by) a reference photo, would taking color samples directly from the photo (instead of creating your own color by "eye") be considered cheating to an "artist"?

    Let me know what you think!

  2. #2
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    I think it's like saying that because Mozart used those notes that you're stealing from Mozart. Colors are colors and neutral. I don't quite understand the question why you would think differently? Do you think that Windsor-Newton or Grumbacher are stealing from each other because they each provide Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue or Ivory Black? or that we should mix our own pigments from stone or plant? Or that digital stuff should not use certain parts of the spectrum? You want me to answer truthfully? No you don't, hahahaha. With all respect, it's silly. Some times we can stretch second guessing into the absurd.

    And I have no opinion about whether Scotland should succeed. . . since you're taking a poll. Land's a little bit more about ownership than color, even though the land is where we get many of our pigments, and I can't even start to fathom what's whose. You have to step it further to where there's a human hand in the process for rights to become an issue, and then it's a matter of what's being done with the color and does that further purpose lay claim to something -- intellectual property or whatever. I would love to own the copyright on Middle C on the piano though. Talk about royalties. . . PHEW!
    Last edited by D Akey; 09-23-2014 at 05:44 AM.
    "Not a bit is wasted and the best is yet to come. . ." -- remembered from a dream

  3. #3
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    Hmmm. I don't class colour sampling as cheating, more a beneficial aspect of working digitally if you wish to employ it.

    I'd imagine it's particularly useful if you're working on matte paintings or concept art that may need to be done under tight time constraints or have to convey realistic tones.

    The great thing is, you always have that choice and flexibility. I would say that I think mixing or picking your own colours is probably a better way to create a more personal connection to your work and I suppose to some degree I feel that it takes away some of the element of interpretation too (we all might see or feel a particular scene differently and this subtlety could get lost lost by mechanical sampling), but again it's a personal choice of the artist. They can always work over it anyway.

    As D Akey mentioned, how far do you take it? Should one sneer at artists that make use of many tubes of colour because they no longer mix from a primary or base range of 5 or 6 colours? Of course not, everyone has their own approach and that's what makes art so interesting.
    Last edited by Bertrude; 09-19-2014 at 09:58 AM.

  4. #4
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    Mr. D Akey,

    This is the first post of yours I have read where I really don't understand where you're coming from. I don't see how the fact that two paint manufacturers offering the same color paint for sale is in any way comparable to an artist using a computer to tell him/her what color to use instead of learning how to mix that color themselves.

    I'm not going to get into wether I think sampling colors from a photo is cheating in the sense of creating original art. To me the more important question is how does it help improve your painting ability? Painting, wether digital or traditional, is an acquired skill. It comes easier to some than to others but it is learned thru practice. What does sampling colors from a photograph teach you about painting? You're just moving a color from one place on your computer screen and placing it somewhere else. I suppose I feel if there is any cheating taking place it is against the one doing the painting, who is being cheated out of the chance to gain a greater understanding of color, color mixing, color application, and thru that practice, a greater understanding of painting in general. And besides, mixing colors, mixing the right color...isn't that half the fun?

  5. #5
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    Depends... Are you student, who's learning color theory? If so, then you'd be cheating yourself of knowledge. If you've already studied it, then it's just another shortcut.
    Nothing is easy to the unwilling.

  6. #6
    Unfortunately, I don't have a huge opinion one way or another on this.

    Those that do it, do it for a reason that seems justified to them. Those that don't, don't for a reason that seems justified to them.

    This one question is like asking everyone what flavor ice cream is better. You'll get a lot of opinion, but no real information. If you're studying color then by all means you'll want to try the hard way. If you're not, why waste time when the color is there... alternatively... have you ever tried to pick a color from a tiny spot on a picture? 90% of the time you will not get a true copy of the color anyway. It's all about the mixing. Another thing to consider is that your monitor calibration may not be showing accurate colors to begin with, so there's another problem with the "cheating or not" question.

    Instead if you want to know about color, study it. Find out about it, how it works, what it does to people emotionally and how to apply that psychology to your images so that you can move people like so many good painters do.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmac View Post
    Mr. D Akey,

    This is the first post of yours I have read where I really don't understand where you're coming from. I don't see how the fact that two paint manufacturers offering the same color paint for sale is in any way comparable to an artist using a computer to tell him/her what color to use instead of learning how to mix that color themselves.

    I'm not going to get into wether I think sampling colors from a photo is cheating in the sense of creating original art. To me the more important question is how does it help improve your painting ability? Painting, wether digital or traditional, is an acquired skill. It comes easier to some than to others but it is learned thru practice. What does sampling colors from a photograph teach you about painting? You're just moving a color from one place on your computer screen and placing it somewhere else. I suppose I feel if there is any cheating taking place it is against the one doing the painting, who is being cheated out of the chance to gain a greater understanding of color, color mixing, color application, and thru that practice, a greater understanding of painting in general. And besides, mixing colors, mixing the right color...isn't that half the fun?
    I would have thought that because there is an endless discussion about copyright and violation or not on the internet this question could be seen as getting shoe-horned into that whole controversy. All the hubbub about using your own photos or other people's photos, and straight out copying as with the knock off studios where they're copying old masterworks and selling them as originals, or where parts of contemporary works are directly copied, or slightly altered, not to mention all the words spent discussing another classification of the term 'cheating' as projecting, tracing, using a grid and all the other devices for creating an image. All have the potential to be called 'cheating' by whoever is feeling violated.

    So in referring to two manufacturers producing the same colors, it makes my point that certain things, like colors, are universal resource, much like air we all breathe, or using primitives like circles and triangles to design or draw with.

    The author did not identify why they wanted the question answered, what they were fishing for, whether it was a new art student seeking, as you seem to think, wondering about the best way to learn, or if it was a lawyer fishing for arguments for when they approach a copyright trial. The invitation "speak truthfully" is a little suspicious that it's either someone who does not speak English well or it's somebody wanting to hear all possible arguments to compile all the arguments to prepare for a legal battle. Who wouldn't speak truthfully about something that would never really generate anything indirect or hidden or even a lie. It's not that kind of issue.

    Thus I did not answer at the student level. And were this question to show up in court, I would hope it would be made absolutely clear that color is not owned by anyone and can be had anywhere, much the same as book titles can't be copyrighted, or notes in music, even though in the last decade the corporations have come down really hard on people playing songs to which the corporations (or whoever) hold ownership, without paying, no matter how casual the setting. It nearly brought music to a standstill when kids couldn't learn their favorite songs, or performers at non-profits couldn't perform music that was written over half a century before. A more equitable distinction has been ruled since then. But in the worst case scenarios, not letting people use basic elements or acknowledge that people learn through imitation among other things, it kills creativity and has been ruled to do so and thus basic component parts aren't violating anything. Colors are "primitives" and too basic for ownership.

    All you who have included answers that support a student's learning color, give them all the advice you want. I have no problem with your opinions. But sampling other works where the color works for you -- do it says I. You can learn color theory in an hour lecture and one homework assignment. It means nothing until you paint with it. And the real proof of the use of color comes in application of it. You can sample colors all you want and if you can't use it to turn a form, it's worthless academic information. Color is about sensitivity to it, it's a gut thing. And we respond to colors in a certain way and handling them is where anyone learns anything about it. You know it by seeing it in place, not thinking about it. And I have copied my whole life by compiling things I've seen in nature, in other people's paintings and it registers in my mind. And when I use color it works or it doesn't. If it does, I keep it. If it doesn't I redo it.

    There's a big problem copying other people's palettes though. Often times if the person doing the painting doesn't get it, it actually looks like it's not working. But they will figure it out eventually because the problem is front and center. Thus the questions begin popping before them and they have one of Melville's Nantucket sleigh rides until it finally comes to grips.

    I took color classes and I learned nothing from mixing paints. I learned everything from painting pictures.
    Last edited by D Akey; 09-19-2014 at 09:03 AM.
    "Not a bit is wasted and the best is yet to come. . ." -- remembered from a dream

  8. #8
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    Ahhhh... Now I see what you meant D Akey. That aspect of the question did not occur to me.

  9. #9
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    I think there's a balance. If people are doing only digital painting, there's much not learned that can be learned through traditional painting.

    I have been doing a lot of portraits in watercolour lately (traditional or whatever it's called - someone please think up a new term? lol). There's a wealth to be learned from having a photo up (what do we want - pay a sitter?!?) on my tablet or computer and studying the colours and attempting to replicate them. Or, then again, being more creative and using any colour as long as the tone is correct - even more fun.

    However, there are obstacles for both digital and traditional art. Digital - colour picking won't get you the right colour necessarily (photos being notorious for colour/lighting issues), so the "eye" still needs to judge what suits. Traditional - no colour picking available so the eye has to be even more true.

    Quote Originally Posted by D Akey View Post
    it makes my point that certain things, like colors, are universal resource, much like air we all breathe, or using primitives like circles and triangles to design or draw with.
    D Akey, with you there, and let's add "tracing" to that. It's so over the top ridiculous all this too-ing and fro-ing re art that it's killing the creativity in people, especially the hobby/amateur artist who honestly just wants to enjoy themselves painting. Don't use this, don't do that, don't try that it's copying blah blah blah. Artists have been copying since Day 1, eg en plein air - copying the landscape, or Dürer using his grid, or the camera obscura, or Da Vinci drawing his corpses - ooooo I'm dead now, how dare you copy my muscles! Why, how did we learn in the first place? By copying people's pictures, ideas, reading books, following tutorials etc etc. It's a no-brainer.

    I think people pushing this area are just being plain picky. Yawn. Maybe we should do a personality test on them. I'm sure they'd come out as Enneagram Type 1!! :-D

  10. #10
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    I don't consider it cheating to pick a colour from an image.

    Thanks to Hildee's Enneagram reference, I find I fit nicely into Type 1 and in the list provided by the website, I'm proud of the company I keep.

    It would be interesting to see a poll of what personality types we are.

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