Is It Cheating?

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More tea Vicar? Jessica Lange as Sister Jude Martin in American Horror Story. Oil on canvas, unfinished.

I’ve always had a bit of a problem with this one.  If I use a projector to draw the initial composition of a portrait of is it cheating?

I wanted to try my hand at a portrait and the first one I tried was from a photo I took at a friends 40th Birthday party.  When it was finished I showed it to a couple of our friends and on the plus side, they did instantly recognise it but it wasn’t a picture I’d hang up.

Some time later I bought a projector.  The idea was to project an image onto a canvas to draw the initial composition to at least get an accurate start, but when I actually tried it for the first time it really felt like I was cheating.

I rarely watch TV but my daughter got me hooked on American Horror Story and I loved Jessica Lange, especially in the second season entitled Asylum.  Jessica Lange played Sister Jude Martin. So I tried doing a portrait of her character and although it remains unfinished, it’s on my list as one to finish very soon.

At a friends annual Pre-Victorious Festival party (which started with Jack Daniels and bacon rolls at 9am!) I met an artist who did pencil drawings in the style of Georges Seurat who pioneered pointillism and he said each drawing took some 120 hours! 

After a few minutes of showing each other photos of our art, I asked his opinion on using a projector and much to my surprise his reply was rather pragmatic.  He didn’t consider it cheating, in fact he said that after looking at my paintings he considered it a waste of time drawing it when, in his opinion I could paint, had a good grasp of composition etc.  Being completely honest, I was rather surprised by his opinion but still felt slightly uncomfortable with it.

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Filippo di ser Brunellesco di Lippo Lapi. 1377 – 1446.
Florence

I also saw a programme that touched on Filippo Brunelleschi and his drawing of the Florence Baptistery. He tried using a canvas with a small hole in it and a mirror to check the accuracy and perspective, which again seemed like a small affirmation that ‘projecting’ the desired image has been done for centuries.

Now I’ve begun trying my hand at Street Art where the use of stencils or ‘accessories’ such as everyday objects to create shapes (saucepan lids for Planets) are almost compulsory.  For this, a projector is priceless in making stencils and if, like me, you feel drawing is a major weakness, using a projector allows you to concentrate on the end result rather than drawing.

I’m not suggesting you ignore your weaknesses.  With mine being drawing, I do draw freehand quite often to help myself improve and it is working but I don’t mix ‘practice’ with the actual process of creating a piece.

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Florentine Baptistery

And so the internal dilemma continues, is using a projector cheating or not?  Feel free to chip in with your opinion….hello?…..anyone there?? Anyone at all?