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View Poll Results: How do you feel about tracing from reference images?
Tracing is cheating. I never trace. 43 12.11%
Nothing wrong with tracing, but I don't do it. 48 13.52%
I trace all the time. 38 10.70%
Sometimes I trace, sometimes I don't. 150 42.25%
Doesn't matter to me either way. 76 21.41%
Voters: 355. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 05-05-2013, 09:08 PM
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CharM CharM is offline
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Re: To Trace or Not to Trace

Quote:
Why hide it? If there's nothing wrong with it, why?
Because of discussions just like this one that seem to attach a stigma to those who cannot or choose not to draw freehand.

As far as tracing for portraits, I find that it just doesn't work well. A mm or two here or there throws off the whole likeness. Before drawing out a portrait, I do several sketches of my subject in my sketchbook to try to get to *know* them... it's amazing how this learning stage helps with the final outcome...

Yes, drawing skills ARE important. No, they are NOT necessary to successfully paint in watercolour (or any other medium for that matter).

In the big scheme of things, it just doesn't matter how the line drawing makes it to the paper. As Artists, we need to be supportive of one another regardless how we make marks onto our supports! A little encouragement goes a long way.

p.s. I don't use a projector... actually, I draw out most of my work. But when I do feel the need, or laziness has just set in , I use my photo manipulation software to generate a line drawing. Then, I fine tune that before enlarging and using it.
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Old 05-05-2013, 09:48 PM
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mariposa-art mariposa-art is offline
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Re: To Trace or Not to Trace

Quote:
Originally Posted by CharM
Because of discussions just like this one that seem to attach a stigma to those who cannot or choose not to draw freehand.
The best way to combat an unwarranted or unfair stigma is to demonstrate why it's unfair. Not by lying or concealing the truth.

Norman Rockwell is a perfect example. He had massive skills, but used a projector to speed along his work. He was open about that and not ashamed. Because he had nothing to be ashamed of. And he was able to demonstrate that.

Those who hide it make you wonder—what are they ashamed of? If there's nothing wrong with it, lying or pretending doesn't make any sense, but rather only reinforces the idea that there is something wrong with it after all.

There definitely are artists who don't draw well and use a projector, and their work is lovely and successful, so in the end no one is going to think less of them.

There are also artists who use tools to compensate for not being able to draw well, but hide the fact. It becomes obvious that they're being deceptive when they get praise for their "drawing skills" and do nothing to correct the misunderstanding. That is deliberate deceptiveness. When enough artists do that, I think that feeds into the prejudice or stigma—that tracing is "faking" or "cheating." The only way to combat that is to always be up front and honest.

Quote:
As far as tracing for portraits, I find that it just doesn't work well. A mm or two here or there throws off the whole likeness. Before drawing out a portrait, I do several sketches of my subject in my sketchbook to try to get to *know* them... it's amazing how this learning stage helps with the final outcome...
I agree with this and find it works that way for me too.

Quote:
Yes, drawing skills ARE important. No, they are NOT necessary to successfully paint in watercolour (or any other medium for that matter).
It depends on the kind of work, and style of work. With some styles, no it absolutely doesn't matter.

In others, it does make a difference and often those with a more critical eye can tell. Just like (so I'm told) some can tell when you paint from life vs. painting from photos. I don't have a sharp enough eye to tell the difference all the time, but sometimes you can tell when someone is using a projector because they can't draw. Little errors in anatomy, little lacks of understanding of structure. Things like copying lens distortion from the photo (bendy walls and such!).

Quote:
In the big scheme of things, it just doesn't matter how the line drawing makes it to the paper. As Artists, we need to be supportive of one another regardless how we make marks onto our supports! A little encouragement goes a long way.
I agree. I wouldn't want anyone to be discouraged from having fun and enjoying art. If that means for some people that they never learn to draw, that's what it means!

But I do think that there are substantial reasons why drawing is pushed on artists as something they "should" learn. Like the reasons some of us have brought up—the ability to fix perspective and anatomy problems that are present in a photo. The ability to "see" better. The ability to draw and paint from life (which gives us "better" color and perspective). I believe that some artists are encouraged too much to rely on photos and rely on "aids" and never fully understand why drawing is so emphasized. I think some artists think that drawing is meaningless busywork, meant to make us feel better because we did it the "hard" way, but having no other real value past that. But that's not true. If an artist doesn't understand the benefits of drawing early in, sometimes they get so fixed in their ways that they don't want to learn it at all, feeling that it's past them, "too hard" or whatever. I don't think that's true and I think it's doing all artists a disservice to downplay the importance of drawing, even if all you want to do is paint, because drawing is part of painting. We "draw" with our paintbrushes.
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Old 05-11-2013, 09:38 AM
Undergoose Undergoose is offline
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Re: To Trace or Not to Trace

I spent many years practicing and being a purist with regards to tracing.

After so much time agonizing over learning to freehand what I see and recognize/maintain proper perspective, I no longer have any qualms about using a projector to quickly establish basic lines.

If it ever becomes a crutch, I'll go back to free-handing for a while.

To be quite honest, we're painters. Stellar sketching skills are nice, but not required. When working in a production environment, any tool that helps you speed your productivity while ensuring accuracy is acceptable.

Not tracing, when working for food, is just silly. It's like not using your hammer to pound a nail because it takes so much more skill to do it with a wrench.
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Old 05-12-2013, 08:35 PM
vstevens123 vstevens123 is offline
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Re: To Trace or Not to Trace

Undergoose, love your comment!
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Old 05-15-2013, 11:54 PM
mlab3 mlab3 is offline
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Re: To Trace or Not to Trace

Sometimes I trace, sometimes I don't.

If there is an intricate pattern or object I usually trace, but the creative juices seem to flow easier without any pre-determined lines on the paper.



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Old 01-30-2017, 07:29 PM
Winnie92 Winnie92 is offline
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Re: To Trace or Not to Trace

I read an art book once which said:

If you can't paint something, draw it. If you can't draw it, trace it.

Basically you learn in stages. Go ahead and trace if that helps you, although I would say before even tracing you should train yourself to really look at something, observe it fully, gather all the visual information you can. Art is very much about observing accurately. If you can really SEE something as it is, you're already halfway there.
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Old 03-23-2017, 04:46 AM
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Tyrrhenus Tyrrhenus is offline
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Re: To Trace or Not to Trace

In the end it's the finished painting that matters. You can be a fantastic draughtsman and in the same time not that good at painting pictures that transmit a feeling. Of course any painter should be able to draw decently and should draw a lot because drawing is great to make the coordination between the brain and the hand much better. But using aids (grid, tracing, proportional dividers, projectors etc etc) is not cheating if you are already doing your best at drawing. If using aids is due to laziness, that's a different matter.
I personally draw a lot but I'm not Michelangelo, so I'm not ashamed to use any help that allows me to paint and have fun.
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Old 03-23-2017, 12:37 PM
BiscuitsMontana BiscuitsMontana is offline
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Re: To Trace or Not to Trace

The reason why I am a new painter at the age of almost 42 and not an experienced artist who has been painting all my life is because I believed the people who told me that tracing was cheating. I'm dyspraxic, and drawing is brutally difficult for me as a result. Even the simplest exercises are so frustrating as to be completely unenjoyable. But I love color, and I love form, and I love playing with paint -- but I knew that all that was pointless because I'm never going to be a real artist because I can't draw. So why bother?

In December of this last year, a friend of mine who is a commercial artist was watching me color in a coloring book and said "have you ever tried painting?" I said "nah, I can't draw" and he said "so trace a photo first, who cares? I think you'd really like it and be really good at it." So emboldened, I started doing that, and while I won't lay any claims to being really good, I DO really like it.

Photo tracing has its limits; I only use rights-released photos, even for my own practice, and I'm heavily constrained by what people choose to photograph. So I am also now finally taking drawing classes (online), and I still hate it, but being able to see it as a skill I am developing in tandem with my painting skills instead of a requirement I have to master before I can even start painting is making it possible for me to stick with it. I draw every day now -- my ten year old daughter and I have a pact where we draw every day, and if we miss a day we have to do five penalty drawings the next day and one of them has to be a four panel comic.

To the poster above who said it's not rocket science, I agree; I've done rocketry, and it was FAR easier than drawing!
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Old 03-23-2017, 02:54 PM
Catwoman2 Catwoman2 is offline
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Re: To Trace or Not to Trace

Quote:
Originally Posted by BiscuitsMontana
The reason why I am a new painter at the age of almost 42 and not an experienced artist who has been painting all my life is because I believed the people who told me that tracing was cheating. I'm dyspraxic, and drawing is brutally difficult for me as a result. Even the simplest exercises are so frustrating as to be completely unenjoyable. But I love color, and I love form, and I love playing with paint -- but I knew that all that was pointless because I'm never going to be a real artist because I can't draw. So why bother?

In December of this last year, a friend of mine who is a commercial artist was watching me color in a coloring book and said "have you ever tried painting?" I said "nah, I can't draw" and he said "so trace a photo first, who cares? I think you'd really like it and be really good at it." So emboldened, I started doing that, and while I won't lay any claims to being really good, I DO really like it.

Photo tracing has its limits; I only use rights-released photos, even for my own practice, and I'm heavily constrained by what people choose to photograph. So I am also now finally taking drawing classes (online), and I still hate it, but being able to see it as a skill I am developing in tandem with my painting skills instead of a requirement I have to master before I can even start painting is making it possible for me to stick with it. I draw every day now -- my ten year old daughter and I have a pact where we draw every day, and if we miss a day we have to do five penalty drawings the next day and one of them has to be a four panel comic.

To the poster above who said it's not rocket science, I agree; I've done rocketry, and it was FAR easier than drawing!

Can you take some of your own photos and print them out so you can trace them? It would give you more variety and it could be a lot of fun, too. Depending on your monitor, you might even be able to trace the images right off of your computer screen.

You don't need the highest quality images if the composition pleases you, so you could use the camera in your phone to take the pictures if you don't have a regular camera.
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Old 03-23-2017, 03:52 PM
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MarialenaS MarialenaS is offline
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Re: To Trace or Not to Trace

Here we go again with the same discussion.
If you feel that by tracing, things will be easier for you, go on and trace. There's nothing wrong with it.

But do bother yourself to learn how to draw at least the basics. Learning how to draw is not that difficult; in fact it is like writing. When we learn how to write, we actually learn how to draw the certain shapes that the letters of the alphabet have.

So if someone is able to draw letters, for sure has the ability to learn how to draw everything.

Drawing doesn't need effort. It needs method as everything else in this life and this skill gives great freedom to any creative person.
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Old 03-23-2017, 04:02 PM
BiscuitsMontana BiscuitsMontana is offline
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Re: To Trace or Not to Trace

"If someone can learn to draw letters…"

My handwriting was illegible at the age of eight. I needed fairly intensive therapy to be able to write more legibly with my hands than I could with my feet. Even as an adult I struggle with it.

I wasn't kidding when I said that rocket science is much, much easier for me than drawing. Rocket science is just math.
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Old 03-23-2017, 06:23 PM
otherworlder otherworlder is offline
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Re: To Trace or Not to Trace

I think it ultimately depends on what you want to do with art.

I have never traced anything and don't see myself ever doing it, but that's because I have never had to produce anything on a deadline, or do exact replicas, or anything large. If I am doing commissioned portraits or reproductions I totally would trace. If I need to paint a mural I probably need to have a projector of some kind. My goal is to illustrate and to eventually be able to produce any image from imagination, tracing seems very counterproductive to my goal. For my purpose I don't have things I can trace. If I need to rescale and separately trace a dozen different image onto paper I as well just draw it.
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Old 03-23-2017, 07:37 PM
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MarialenaS MarialenaS is offline
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Re: To Trace or Not to Trace

Quote:
Originally Posted by BiscuitsMontana
"If someone can learn to draw letters…"

My handwriting was illegible at the age of eight. I needed fairly intensive therapy to be able to write more legibly with my hands than I could with my feet. Even as an adult I struggle with it.

I wasn't kidding when I said that rocket science is much, much easier for me than drawing. Rocket science is just math.

I wasn't talking about people that have certain difficulties on something. I was talking generally about all the rest that they have been persuaded by what they read all around the internet, that drawing is difficult, watercolours are difficult, portraits are difficult etc. etc. etc.

Nothing is difficult to learn if you approach it with the proper method and positive attitude.
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Old 03-23-2017, 08:49 PM
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CharM CharM is offline
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Re: To Trace or Not to Trace

I also get tired of the argument regarding drawing vs. tracing.

I don't care how you get the marks down onto your paper. A good foundation for your painting is important. No good painting ever resulted from a bad drawing.

If you plan to trace your image onto your paper, know the following:
  1. Use good graphite transfer paper.
  2. Do not press too hard so that you don't create valleys on the paper.
  3. Clean up your tracing with a kneaded eraser.
  4. Don't trace every single line and dot. Use your judgement to trace the important outlines as your painting guide.
You will still have to edit your photograph. You will have to adjust some of the lines because your photo won't necessarily provide you with the sharpest image.

Creativity feeds the soul. If you cannot draw, then for gawd's sake trace. Marialena is right in that nothing in life is easy. But, you can definitely help yourself by following the path that works for you. And for those who're able, take the time to strengthen your drawing skills.
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Old 03-23-2017, 09:42 PM
Catwoman2 Catwoman2 is offline
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Re: To Trace or Not to Trace

Quote:
Originally Posted by BiscuitsMontana
"If someone can learn to draw letters…"

My handwriting was illegible at the age of eight. I needed fairly intensive therapy to be able to write more legibly with my hands than I could with my feet. Even as an adult I struggle with it.

I wasn't kidding when I said that rocket science is much, much easier for me than drawing. Rocket science is just math.

Kathryn, I hope you won't be discouraged and feel that you absolutely need to learn to draw in order to paint.

If tracing is what works best for you, keep doing what works, and enjoy the fun of working on your painting skills.

There are no rules here, except that you should have fun and enjoy painting.
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