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Thread: A debate about tracing & color picking

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Down a hole

    A debate about tracing & color picking

    Hey All,
    I came across an opinion that I've seen in quite a few places before and in quite a few circumstances so I thought I'll open up a debate.
    Here goes.

    There is an opinion that tracing a reference or color picking from images or even referring to something is 'not good' for development. I've come across quite a few people who'll state that they did not use any reference at all, or they would not trace but only draw looking at a reference image because that'll make them better.

    Generally promoting the hard way and scoffing at the easy way.

    I'd like to contest this stance.

    I've never painted with real oils, I only use oil paint digitally. But I've used a pencil in both real life and virtual. I recently came across a digital pencil that I absolutely loved and actually enjoy using it now even though whatever little training I had in my youth was in traditional medium and they always stressed upon doing it the hard way.

    Now, I see both sides of the story and have come to a kind of understanding that all that is required is to find an optimal way to arrive at a desired result, whatever the methodology may be.
    There is nothing sacrosanct about what the master artists did as long as one can understand wat they were trying to do and employ it in one's own way.

    A computer program that lets you paint oils is quite a few notches above
    a lead pencil on paper which is a far cry from marks scratched out on cave walls with coals and if we follow the philosophy of not using new tools made available to us by the way of technology we ought to revert back to the stone age or before that even.. isn't it?

    We all are trying to emulate natural medium on a computer are we not? then why do artistes from the old school of thought (including me) have such a scoffing attitude towards the new tools that aid us in our endeavors?

    After all to be able to make a drawing without tracing colors/lines is just a skill, of observation and reapplication of the observation, so, is art only about the skill then?

    I have also been one of those who would at one time or the other feel that any dependence on 'devices' was , well, 'below the dignity' of the true artist until I realized that it was rubbish! What is the true threshold of art then?

    Oh sure, if someone can do without those devices great, wonderful, clap clap clap, but let us not look down upon those that use them, because it is human nature to design/employ every thing possible to our advantage, and tracing colors or images is just a very small bit of that. It is what you trace and what you do afterward that becomes important isn't it?

    Is there a reason to reinvent the wheel every time?

    If someone traces, or picks colors it does not remain art?

    What utter rubbish!

    Of course it is art, because only the artist who put it together can do it that way, with whatever goodness/faults.

    Oh sure, it means it'll take a few decades more for the individual to develop the 'skill' to pull out colors instead of picking them from the image or draw the form unaided, but frankly I don't think it will be missed, because are we not using a popular 'software' to churn out images (that are probably going to sell for pittance compared to what most things in galleries sell at because it is 'digital', if at all you're interested in selling them/ or this is your main occupation.) Me, I'm just here to have some kicks 'pretending' that I paint! And whatever gives me that satisfaction of seeing an image come to life under my virtual brush is good enough for me. If I wanted to be Michelangelo I'd have aimed to be born a few centuries earlier.

    I have come across this ideology elsewhere too where traditionalists will resist the change to newer mediums. I think it is wiser to embrace the change instead of resisting it. We have a device that can make our task easier, I'd rather use it unless I don't require it.
    If not using me make me more optimal to perform then by all means I'll not use it. ( I don't use the calculator to add 2+2) but if using it makes any difference to my productivity I'm sure as hell not only using it I'm going to try and master using it!!

    But then you might believe in not using the calculator to multiply or drive an automobile or use electricity..!


    All this is of course my opinion and completely open to debate.
    The more hair I lose, the more head I get.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    NC, USA
    Hello flyashy,

    This is not the first time I've seen this debate either and I'm sure it won't be the last as well. I studied Fine Art and Graphic Design while in college and even had a professor who would outright laugh at people who even muttered a word about painting/drawing on a computer. Personally, I think that people who don't see digital art as true "art", are caught up in the idea that computer are meant to make things easier. They see everything as "cheating", because a person doesn't have to make certain decisions or worry so much about compositions, because often they can easily be changed later on via cut and paste methods or hue adjustments. To some extent, what they say is true. It's a shortcut that let's people get away with things that couldn't be done with a true medium like an oil painting. But then... If one made a mistake in real life, wouldn't one attempt to fix it? I believe so. They might even start the whole painting over again. What a waste of effort and materials, no?

    In my opinion, there is a "good" answer to every question from both sides making it a debate that simply cannot be won.
    Nothing is easy to the unwilling.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Grand Island NY
    I think tracing is fine, it gets a lot of other people involved in painting that normally wouldn't be painting. The idea is to have fun painting or making designs any way you can

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Rio de Janeiro
    Will enter this debate, but i am still training my englisnh Serious.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Tiffin, OH USA
    As Someone Sane said, this is not the first time this subject has come up here. Flyashy, thank you for your well thought out and well presented post. It's apparent that you gave it considerable introspection with mixed resolution in your mind and spent considerable time putting it into words. There is no answer that is easy or right and that will quiet all camps in a debate that well pre-dates digital art. The traditional artists of the 19th century decried the advent of photography, as an example. One can argue that one uses the tools available to define and create art. One can almost hear Grog, the cave man, decrying the use of brushes and liquid mediums over the "traditional" tools of rock and chalk. My opinion is that art is an end unto itself done by individuals for whatever reason with whatever tools are at hand. Define Art. Digital art is no more than a tool and, in as much as it makes art available to a wider population, how can that be bad? There is no shortage of "purists" who claim to know what constitutes art and will look down their collective nose at anything new. Again, define art. I will quote Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act One, Scene V:
    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
    For what you may consider my opinion to be worth, I say that you use the tools at hand as long as in doing so you are not outright stealing from another artist.
    Last edited by RobertSWade; 06-27-2009 at 01:05 PM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Rio de Janeiro
    Seriously, Fly good you touched this aspect of digital paint. Robert in few words dissected it. I have some opinions on this subject. The major point is: it doesn't matter as far as we get restricted to the computer. For sure there are many who don't like watercolors, acrylics, photomanipulation, etc... The problem is when you have to show your paint in a macro world situation. Here a have no experience whatsoever in digital paint printing in canvas. What i observed is that when you look a beautiful Van Gogh in the pc screen and look a beautiful digital paint, from the visual esthetic effect (in the screen) there is no difference. As far as tracing Weemb is absolutely right it is a stimulous for the young to start their experience. When I paint the only criteria I have (excluding all conceptual aspects of stylus, technique, etc...) is that the final result looks beautiful, at least for me. So I think we shoul hear from those who have this printing experience.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Fairmont BC Canada
    This always comes up, but I think that's a good thing. I've already given my two cents away the last time this conversation came round, so I am broke this time around. But I will add, that I use reference photos (for reference purposes) extensively. I've never had any formal training in the field so I need something to lean on. And I will often import references solely to pick the colours from, not necessarily painting the image from it. (I find it difficult finding strong bright colours manually)

    It saddens me still that digital art is not accepted so freely. But, everyone understands digital art as photoshop. Digitally altered images. The common world does not know that there is something so creative as Artrage around. Poor people :O(

    Just last thing to add is that, Art has no rules, no definition, no limitation. Just because one persons imagination is smaller than another's, does not mean either is wrong. Art is what each one wants it to be. Simply so.
    do check my art work out @
    and prints @

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Don't even get me started.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    O.K....I'll bite on this one. I have dabbled in this debate a tad in the past but a funny thing happenned to me today out fly fishing (that actually has something to do with this) so it is a bit ironic that this is the first post I read after logging on.

    Fly fishing is an art as old as fishing itself. It is an art full of traditionalists and scoffers of all varieties. I tie my own flies which is an art in and of itself above all the casting techniques, reading water and currents and weather and bug patterns and so on. It is, like painting, a life long quest to perfection.

    Standing in the middle of the stream today, I noticed I was out of my favorite fly. If I wanted to continue fishing, I would have to revert to a "store bought" probably machine made synthetic fly "Oh...NO! Hahaha! How dare I disgrace a fish by using this synthetic fly. The masters of fly fishing would roll over in their graves and strike me dead with lightning if I put this fly on my line...How dare I! Well, I didn't go home and fished with that fly, and caught 2 beautiful rainbows with it!

    Did I not "Really" catch those fish? Is what I did considered cheating? Maybe... To some. Would some traditional fly fisherman scoff at me? Probably. But really, who cares... I had fun and arrived at the same destination by catching fish. In fact, that machine made synthetic fly worked better than my hand tied fly.

    MY POINT - I think, new technology should be embraced and used in whatever way if it increases your ability to achieve a desired result. It's not like tracing and color matching is only available to those who need it. It is available to everyone in digital art, which means that the outcome and result will improve for those who know little about art as well as the experienced artist. This means the bar is raised across the board. The novice gets better and the experienced professional creates art never before seen. I say bring it on!
    "The significance is hiding in the insignificant. Appreciate everything."
    Eckhart Tolle

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Hi guys
    Hey flyashy,yes this topic has been up before,I haven't commented on it before.My background over 20 years ago I used only traditional media,doing a Fine Arts degree.I used mostly oils for painting and I remember back then being frustrated with how long they take to dry,smell the health risks etc.Also the cost involved ,so to be honest comming back to ART now, is a godsend.It's like I had been waiting for the digital age,and whats more.. I prefer it.
    Now your comments about tracing photo's,that was also done with traditional Artists too.I use to see many Artists using projectors and tracing paper.The only thing I find with tracing is it can be misleading to others who might think you have drawn your subject freestyle.If you want to colour pick go for it.It's a tool you can use if you want.

    One comment you make about us trying to replicate real media,well I'm not by the most part, worried if it looks like oils etc,just does the image work,I don't care if it does look "Digital" Some people are hung up on "oh that looks sooo digital!" All this is subjective,if your enjoying what your doing ,learning and improving... great.

    To finish off it's not the tools(even digital ones) that make an Artist.Well just my thoughts anyway.

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