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Thread: Tracing

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2012


    I'm just curious about tracing and what people think of it. It seems to me to me cheating but I don't know what is and isn't acceptable.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Do not worry my friend! Tracing and copying has a long and noble history in art. True it also has an equally long and ignoble history as well!
    It is only to be condemned if you try to claim the resulting work as wholly your own and do not admit to it.
    Maker Of Replica Macoys

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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Cape Town, South Africa.
    ... I think there are very few who would accuse the celebrated Masters of Fine Art as cheats
    Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. (Mark Twain)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Rowena, thanks for that link. So interesting. I've watched 1/8 and look forward to the rest.

    I think that tracing, or referring to a reference is fine, but do practice occasionally on being able to draw 'freestyle' as well. It hones your powers of observation and gives your work a freedom and truth that you might not get copying slavishly.

    There are plenty of artists and illustrators out there that start from scratch and produce mind blowing work. Portrait artists might start with a sitter and then take photos to finish up the fine details. For realist artists, making something up from scratch that looks real will maybe end up looking not quite so. Using reference is fundamental to this style, because all those little aberrant details are necessary to the reality of the whole.

    I've done a lot of animal portraits over the years, and MUST work with photographs, as animals won't stand still, and all you need is a longer nose, or larger/smaller eyes and it no longer looks quite like that animal. But I will sketch my own animals while they sleep.

    Attachment 71532

    I have a group of artists who have been coming to my studio for 15 years now. They all copy and work in a realistic style. Some of them have worried about whether it's the right thing to do, and I say "Just get in there and enjoy yourselves! There are no rules."

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Pacific Northwest
    My thought is that being honest about the technique is the only "rule". I dislike it when people post "paint overs" of photographs and by not being honest about it they imply that the work is their own skill being shown on the canvas. They might fool a bunch of people and get a lot of pats on the back but I can generally spot that kind of thing fairly easily and to me it just seems hollow.

    That said I think that you can learn a lot from those techniques. Also there is a pretty good amount of skill required to make a tracing look good. I say just be up front about what you are doing and you'll be fine.
    Be well,

    "Teach, Learn, Thrive"~DM

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2012

    Tracing 2

    Well, I've made some drawings from some of my rats but deleted them all because I didn't feel they were valid. I feel better about the process now and will be a tracing maniac. Thanks for the opinions.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    North Staffordshire! UK
    I don't like having to trace but I have to, if I didn't the animals and portraits I paint would have their features in all the wrong places. I do feel a cheat when I do it as I never traced in the past, everything was done freehand, now I have to do rough traces of the position and shape of eyes, nose and mouth before I do the rest. If it wasn't for digital painting and computers my painting days would have been over long ago, I can have lots of layers and erase to my hearts content without spoiling anything.
    Christine.(Paint what you see, not what you know to be there)

    Artrage Magazines

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Englishman in Ont, Canada
    I enjoy doing portraits and for me to get a likeness i always trace an outline of the face to give the various elements both size and position.
    On another layer I will often place hash marks to give overall dimensions to the various elements.
    Even using these guides I find the first attempt usually does not look right as just the slightest misalignment has a huge impact on likeness.
    I also use a Ref image where I can zoom in to the various elements to see the detail.

    As a senior ( just turned 72) I cannot describe the immense pleasure I get from spending days on end working on a painting.
    I really enjoy the companionship of the forum from whom I have learned so much both by viewing the wonderful work put out by the talented artists and the great tutorials that many of them have produced.
    I know I will never be able to help renovate the Sistine Chapel but I sure am enjoying my time I spend with Artrage.
    Regards Geoff

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Pennsylvania, USA
    Tracing can simply be another tool to get your dimensions correct or placing items in the right position. I had a friend who was a trained artist who would take photos of a subject she wanted to paint and use a slide of the photo and project it onto the canvas. And do any of you remember what a pantograph is? They were used ages ago by artists. All are tools.

    I have recently been experimenting with using tracing images to create colorful backgrounds using stickers as brushes. In Art Rage I think we have only begun to skim the surface of what we can do with the available tools.

    In the end, just have fun.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    I echo what Copespeak said. There are a lot of artists out there who work from scratch. But that is because of their personal style that for some does not want to look like a photograph. Heavy stylization as a look and also caricature immediately come to mind. Were you to go straight from a photo, those styles would lose all their unique charm and vigor.

    I can think of some looks in animation that were effected by a mechanical processing like a filter treatment done to live action footage over the last decade or so that had the look of line and flat tone hand done animation, but then the animators were able to go back in and change the backgrounds or add animation to it, thus having an overall view within that style. To me it wasn't successful. But in 3D animation they often have people dressed up in suits and move for the computer from which they plot movement for their 3D characters. Is that cheating? Disney did it in his early animated movies as well -- all the time. They would not just do it with people. They would do it with animals, and water splashing and all that. Rotoscope was a breakthrough.

    But, on the other hand, done poorly, it SUCKED!!!! You need an artistic intention and some skill doing anything you touch regardless of the learning curve. Using the technical assist of photography/movies can really shorten the time of personal development to get good results. And it also can shorten the time it takes to get to the finish line with a painting.

    And that's one of the reasons it has been popular among illustrators forever whether a perfect copy was their intention or merely a starting point from which they could exaggerate. Think Norman Rockwell who used photos as a starting point. His charm came from him and what he did to the photos -- the concept, the picture selection and the distortion were what made him who he was, even though he was a fairly straight, representational painter as far as his technique went.

    I don't think it is a cheat at all. It's using the available tools any way you want to to get the result that satisfies you. Tracing can be practical. It's potentially liberating but also potentially constricting. Fashmir said he could spot one. So can anyone with a trained eye who's been around computer art. And it's because of the character of the finish that leaves earmarks that identify it. It's a tool that identifies it as easily as looking at a real world seascape painted with a palette knife. The technique shows. Then it's about how good it looks for what it is.

    And. . . and I say this with emphasis: AND it's about your personal pleasure quotient. If you're having fun with it and you're not a commissioned artist, HAVE FUN!!!!!!!!!! Bottom line. . . .
    "Not a bit is wasted and the best is yet to come. . ." -- remembered from a dream

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