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Is Tracing a Technique?

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  • #16
    Originally posted by golgotha View Post
    i was just asking this in a drawing thread i just did. i posted my drawing and a pic of what i traced. i was unsure if it was cheating, because without any skills at all i would not be able to make my traced out line look any good. here is the thread. is this considered okay to do or did i cheat? my goal was to have the correct shape without drawing and erasing grid lines. https://www.penciljack.com/forum/lab...ppy-i-disagree
    Yeah, I remember that drawing and I hope you don't take this as a jab at your work, I found this debate on a FB group chat and I was amazed by the amount of feedback it got and I was trying to see what people thought about it here on PJ and I forgot that you had used the technique in your recent drawing. I wasn't trying to knock your drawing, it came out great in my opinion and I wouldn't have guessed that it was outlined, but then againI have no idea who Poppy is nor have I ever seen that particular image before, but yeah, I think you made the technique work to your advantage because in the end, you made the product your own.

    After hearing all of the feedback and comments on this, I'd say that as long as you make the final drawing your own, then it's ok to trace. I had previously ben under the impression that tracing was a taboo technique to use for any self-respecting artist, but hey, it's another tool in the arsenal that we can use so why not use it. Thanks for your input!

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    • #17
      Originally posted by golgotha View Post
      i forgot about the magneto one. but last week i saw this one from same artist and thought it looked kind of photo manipulated.
      Nah, that's just Mike Mayhew. He hires models (at least he does now), takes photos, and reproduces them precisely with pencil and ink wash or paint. Perhaps a bit too precisely in that sometimes they come off looking like photo manipulations. But you can check out a lot of his WIP stuff on instagram.
      artSTATION | deviantART | instagram | penciljack blog

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      • #18
        Originally posted by golgotha View Post
        this seems like cheating to me. looks like he put the photo through a photoshop filter and stuck a magneto heaad on it.]
        That's not Magneto, that's Ted Danson. Cheating, theft, scumbaggery all come to mind but not art. Creativity, originality, personal vision are completely lacking. That doesn't even rank as bad collage, it's just embarrassing.
        PaulMartinSmith

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        • #19
          Originally posted by golgotha View Post
          this seems like cheating to me. looks like he put the photo through a photoshop filter and stuck a magneto heaad on it.
          That's just horrible, sloppy work. I can't believe people get away with things like that. I wonder if there's like any copyright issues here that should prevent things like this from happening? Or do those issues go out of the window as soon as something is modified in the original picture?

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          • #20
            Originally posted by Inkthinker View Post

            Like hell you don't. If you want the traced elements to blend seamlessly with the original artwork, the best use for tracing is to work underlying shapes and perspective. Once you have the basic form, discard the reference and begin drawing straight so that everything ties together.

            For my personal experience, I've done more than a bit of tracery on cars, buildings and faces for various projects where it was required that the image be specifically a Toyota MRX, or Samuel L. Jackson, or the Empire State Building. And I had to lean how to do it in such a way as to not make it look like ass. And while I don't know that I did it well, I think I did all right. For example, all the cars in this (12-year-old) comics page were initially traced from various photoreferences:

            https://i.imgur.com/ImPTwoc.jpg

            I'll also point out that tracing cars made it a lot easier to freehand cars, as I had learned a bunch about their shapes and forms over the course of it. So by the time I got to this image, I was able to draw all the vehicles without using any photos.

            https://i.imgur.com/rxTHEuH.jpg

            That Magneto image is, I think, a good example of how NOT to do it. They didn't add or modify anything about the base reference, just pulled it over wholesale. Personally I'd be concerned about offending whomever that source image represents, since I'm sure those medals and such actually mean something. But near as I can tell, they did very little repainting at all.

            The artist COULD have used the original base (not sure why you would need to, but you could) and then modified the medals, added more or less decorations, changed up the stitching on the sleeves, especifically that crown pattern that's cleary symbolic of something, removed or modified the sash, and they definitely should have taken out that background and replaced it with something more suitable to the character (flag of Genosha or something, I dunno).

            I think that's the part that bothers me most about that image, there's opportunities that are completely passed over. I really hope this was some sort of rush job, where the artist got the assignment the same day it needed to be finished. Otherwise it just looks sad and lazy, and potentially litigious (depending on whether the people who that uniform represents get upset at seeing their real decorations and symbols applied to a fictional character).
            Yeah, this was the argument that seems to be the most convincing and one that I agree with. I think that tracing would help a person to get a feel of how the individual pen strokes are made on a drawing and how the curves needs to drawn or how the hair might flow or how in this case the outlines of cars must be done. I think it help a beginning artist get a feel for what to draw when working with these different subjects. When I saw this topic being brought up I thought about why and under which conditions would I want to trace in a drawing. My only explanation would be to help get the outline right and to see how the individual lines help to form the body or whatever it is that I'm drawing. It's difficult to see any value in tracing if you're going to go over every single line of a drawing to then call it your own. I think the learning happens when you try to get a feel for whatever it is you're drawing. Thanks for the insight!

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            • #21
              Originally posted by Maulsmash View Post
              I personally think if you are tracing or reproducing from an image For commercial work it should be an photo you have taken.
              Yeah, I think that the best way to avoid any copyright issues that may occur would be to just take a picture and use that to help you get your work done.

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              • #22
                Lots of people trace and lots of clients don't care as long as the finished product looks good. The risk you take the more you trace is not getting more clients if they find out. If it's an issue of tracing props (like the folding chair and car examples) most people won't bat an eye but if you're straight up tracing someone else's work (including pictures) most people will think you "cheated" and feel ripped off. Is it wrong? Is it cheating? Will you pay for it if you know it was traced? It all depends on who you ask.
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                • #23
                  Originally posted by Elliot Rodriguez View Post
                  I think that tracing would help a person to get a feel of how the individual pen strokes are made on a drawing and how the curves needs to drawn or how the hair might flow or how in this case the outlines of cars must be done.
                  Not just the outlines. It's the general structure you're looking to establish, seeing where the block shapes are and how they connect. It's learning the little details, like how the A pillar blends into the front fenders, how a hood arcs from the grill to the venting, how the doors interact with the wheel wells. Stuff that becomes more evident when you're staring at all the details up close while you try to figure out how to break it down into simple, consistent forms that you can build back up without the photograph.

                  I don't recommend tracing for organic or moving content, like flowing hair. That's a subject of force and line-of-action, and a photoreference isn't going to impart much information there that you can't discern from observation, i.e. "hair flows". In those cases, you're better off studying film and animation and real life, seeing how motion determines form.

                  Likewise I'm not sure what you mean by getting "a feel of how the individual pen strokes are made on a drawing"? Like, it seems to suggest you would trace an illustration to try and get a sense of how it feels to draw that illustration, but this is not going to be helpful. You're not going to approach the structure or process of that drawing in the same way as the artist who crafted it, by tracing the finished product. You don't have any of the underlying structure that they've either internalized or cleaned up, and without that you have no idea what progression they followed to come to that completed work, or why they chose to draw things in a certain way at all.

                  If you want to learn how to draw like a particular artist, look past them and seek to discover the sources they refer to, the inspirations they seek when they're coming up with the work that you're admiring. That's how you start to dig into the same influences and make similar decisions to come to similar conclusions as they did.
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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by fatmancomics View Post
                    Lots of people trace and lots of clients don't care as long as the finished product looks good. The risk you take the more you trace is not getting more clients if they find out. If it's an issue of tracing props (like the folding chair and car examples) most people won't bat an eye but if you're straight up tracing someone else's work (including pictures) most people will think you "cheated" and feel ripped off. Is it wrong? Is it cheating? Will you pay for it if you know it was traced? It all depends on who you ask.
                    Yeah, I think that's what the bottom line is here, that people will have a varying opinion about whether or not it's good to trace, or if it's beneficial to your artistic growth to use a technique like that. I personally don't, but after hearing all of the opinions in this thread, I have come to see some of the benefits of using it and I've also become aware of the fine line one must have to tread when using it because as you say, you could use it and if you "get away" with it, then why not continue using it? but what happens if someone finds out? Does that tarnish your image as an artist? Do people think less of your art if they know you traced? It's an interesting prospect to consider and I think it's all a matter of personal preference and that fine line that you have to be aware of.

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by Inkthinker View Post

                      Likewise I'm not sure what you mean by getting "a feel of how the individual pen strokes are made on a drawing"? Like, it seems to suggest you would trace an illustration to try and get a sense of how it feels to draw that illustration, but this is not going to be helpful. You're not going to approach the structure or process of that drawing in the same way as the artist who crafted it, by tracing the finished product. You don't have any of the underlying structure that they've either internalized or cleaned up, and without that you have no idea what progression they followed to come to that completed work, or why they chose to draw things in a certain way at all.

                      If you want to learn how to draw like a particular artist, look past them and seek to discover the sources they refer to, the inspirations they seek when they're coming up with the work that you're admiring. That's how you start to dig into the same influences and make similar decisions to come to similar conclusions as they did.
                      Yeah, that's exactly what I was talking about when I say, "getting a feel for how the individual pen strokes are made". I think that this would be beneficial to someone who has zero knowledge about drawing and who are at a very basic, beginner level and who wants to venture out into drawing superheroes. I could see how tracing a drawing of Spider-Man for example, for a beginner who has no knowledge of constructions lines, line weight, proportions and perspective could start to get more familiar with the shapes of the biceps, triceps, pecs and such and how that particular artist (who they're tracing) executed those lines and those shapes.

                      That would be an example of how are beginner would benefit from the actual product, but like you say, it wouldn't be a way to understand an artist's thought process as he's executing a drawing. I don't think that tracing would help you delve too deep into the artistic process of drawing that much, I think there's too much going on in an artist's head when they're drawing or painting for someone to just trace an image and understand the whole process from start to finish. That requires a different study habit, I think.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by Elliot Rodriguez View Post
                        "getting a feel for how the individual pen strokes are made"
                        The problem with this is it promotes drawing backwards or outside-in. Never draw outside-in, draw inside-out.

                        If you want to trace in order to understand shapes, mass, volume... ok. Tracing to understand line? Never. Tracing to understand line makes line the goal rather than the tool. You're saying the hammer is more important than the house, the rivet gun more important than the rocket ship.

                        Never draw lines. Use lines as a tool to draw shapes, forms, mass, volume, motion, emotion. Draw those things and lines will take care of themselves.
                        PaulMartinSmith

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Smitty View Post

                          The problem with this is it promotes drawing backwards or outside-in. Never draw outside-in, draw inside-out.

                          If you want to trace in order to understand shapes, mass, volume... ok. Tracing to understand line? Never. Tracing to understand line makes line the goal rather than the tool. You're saying the hammer is more important than the house, the rivet gun more important than the rocket ship.

                          Never draw lines. Use lines as a tool to draw shapes, forms, mass, volume, motion, emotion. Draw those things and lines will take care of themselves.
                          No, I'm not saying that the hammer is more important than the house, I must've been misunderstood, but what I was trying to say is that understanding how a hammer is used to build that house could be a possible way to begin to understanding of the construction of the house as a whole. I could see how, for someone who has never drawn before, looking at a piece from your gallery and then thinking, "I should aim to draw like that" , could be a daunting task, again, especially for someone who's never drawn a day in his life. I say this from a beginner's perspective. Again, I could be wrong, because learning to do lines may not be the best place to begin, but I would understand someone's decision to start there.

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                          • #28
                            I do some tracing in my private work I don't show anyone. I just find it enjoyable for some weird reason. It's basically inking photos, and despite what people have told me that I would never learn anything from it, it does help me make design choices in my real work.

                            I feel like you should just do what you want to as an artist, just be upfront about, and try not to steal other peoples hard work.

                            I've screwed up on that as well at some points in my art. I view so much art all the time that I'll draw something, and then go back a week later ,and realize that was really close to something I saw someone else do.

                            Whatever, its all a learning process.

                            Last edited by 50%grey; 01-28-2020, 02:48 AM.
                            “Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” ― Andy Warhol

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by 50%grey View Post
                              I do some tracing in my private work I don't show anyone. I just find it enjoyable for some weird reason. It's basically inking photos, and despite what people have told me that I would never learn anything from it, it does help me make design choices in my real work.

                              I feel like you should just do what you want to as an artist, just be upfront about, and try not to steal other peoples hard work.

                              I've screwed up on that as well at some points in my art. I view so much art all the time that I'll draw something, and then go back a week later ,and realize that was really close to something I saw someone else do.

                              Whatever, its all a learning process.

                              Nice! And yeah, I agree with what you say. In the end, it's just that. Do whatever you like and whatever works out for you as long as you don't take credit for someone else's work.

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by Smitty View Post
                                "

                                I once had an outdoor funeral scene to draw. I needed four dozen folding chairs in scaled 3 pt perspective, two banks of 24 each. Because I know how to do this by hand, I knew it was at least a full days work, maybe two. As an added bonus, 80% of the chairs would end up covered by mourners, none of whom could be accurately placed until after the chairs were done. Solution? Google Sketch-up.

                                I pulled a folding chair from their archive, cut and pasted, adjusted the angle and... bang... two days of work in 20 minutes. Print at size, slap it on a light box, draw the mourners, trace off what parts of the chairs till showed, done. I don't consider this cheating any more than it's cheating to buy pencils, brushes and pens rather than building my own. They call them tools for a reason
                                I remember that scene! I think using 3d models is fine as long as it doesn't look like you traced a bunch of 3d models. When the tracing pulls you out of the story, it's a problem.

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