I think I got a good likeness with the male model. With the female I was a little less concerned with likeness and just wanted to concentrate on technique. It was really kind of a study, but I feel like it came out decent.
Oil on Linen 14 x 17
Oil on Canvas Paper 11 x 14
As far as painting from life vs. painting from photographs goes...
I try as much as possible to paint from life. I think it's essential for me to be able to go in the direction I want to go. I'm not a purist however and so sometimes if necessary I will use photographs. If I have to do so though I try not to be a slave to my reference. I try to treat it as though I actually had the model there in front of me and think about things such as what edges might need softening, as the camera tends to make everything sharp. I'm learning to do this more and more and feel like I'm getting better at it. But again, painting and drawing from life often make this task, not easy, but easier.
One thing I never do is trace or project my image onto my canvas. I say never, but I did do it once or twice very early on. I felt like I impressed others but lied to myself. It felt terrible, especially because I knew I had the ability to draw it freehand, but was just too lazy.
This reminds me of a little story I once read in Harvey Penick's Little Red Book Of Golf. I like to play golf and Penick was the sage from whom every aspiring pro wanted to glean nuggets of wisdom. It's technically a golf book, but in truth it's a book of life lessons applicable to many life situations. Anywayyyy...
He tells the story of some parents who had invested a great deal of time and money to teach their young son the game of golf and would go out with him regularly. One day the parents walked into the clubhouse with Junior after their round. Old mister Penick began chatting with the proud parents and asked them how little junior had done that day.
"Oh he did just fine today. In fact Junior just got his first birdie ever" The parents beaming.
"Oh and how did this happen? Tell me about it."
The parents proceeded to tell Harvey how the boy had hit a nice drive down the fairway, had gotten the ball onto the green in one, leaving it about 2 feet from the hole. Seeing how the ball was so close to the hole the parents just picked up the ball and called it a gimme.
"Well," said Mr. Penick. "I guess little Junior has still yet to make his first birdie!"
That was kind of how I felt when I traced. I was telling myself I could actually do it anyway if I wanted to, so why not just take the easy way and pretend that I did it through skill.