In general, I prefer not to work from photos. The camera has only one eye, while we have two. The camera takes the three-dimensional object and flattens it to two dimensions for us, so we miss the volume of the object. Plus, I just prefer to see what I'm drawing. Particularly with portraits -- drawing a living, breathing human being, right there, is a very different experience than working from a photograph.
However, sometimes there is really not a choice. Here are two examples.
I came across the Wellesley College yearbook from 1912 at a thrift store. One face leapt off the page at me. Her name: Ethel Caution-Davis. In that time, college was for the well-to-do. Most colleges were either all-white, or mostly so, and, if black, a student attended one of the historically black colleges. Yet, she went to an elite women's institution, the only African-American in her class. I did a Google search, found her right away, with her yearbook picture the first image hit. Remarkable woman. She became a published poet of the Harlem Renaissance and an educator, rising to become Dean of Women at Talladega College, an historic black college. Later in life, she moved to New York City, worked in public assistance, and became director of a residence club for single women. She never married, and died at the age of 101. What a remarkable woman she must have been!
So, here I share the original yearbook photo, and my version, in which I tried to achieve that hand-painted, vintage photograph look.
Then, being challenged to draw a 1920's movie star of my choice, I stumbled upon a photo of Nina Mae McKinney, known as the "Black Garbo" in Europe. She became the first African-American actor to sign a long-term contract with MGM, but, alas, the company didn't seem to know what to do with her. Racism: irrational, and oh, so powerful.
In this case, I did not work from an image load. I printed off the photo and drew from that, using the Sketch Club app again.
Here I share the original photo found on Google, followed by my version. I haven't done her justice, but I hope I have communicated some of her spirit. You can find clips of her work on YouTube, and they are well worth viewing.
Two remarkable women. I wish they were alive today, so I could draw their portrait from life!