Can an artist learn from tracing? How and why?
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Thread: Can an artist learn from tracing? How and why?

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    Can an artist learn from tracing? How and why?

    I recently have read and watched a few artists say things regarding tracing as though it does have its place in the learning process. Though where how and why weren't specific.

    I was just wanting to hear the thoughts of this from other artists such as yourselves if anyone has a spare moment.

    I'm not gonna go out and trace my favorite artists work or anything but.....the title says it all I think.

    Thank you for your time.

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    Tracing your own work like when cleaning up a drawing is okay.

    When you're learning to draw, tracing others doesn't teach you anything. The fundamental part of drawing is making accurate marks. Working on your hand-eye coordination so that you can make the strokes you want as well as have confident and expressive line work. Removing that step of the drawing by tracing only hinders your progress.

    I think back in the day before photoshop tracing was used in the same way photo manipulation and photo sampling is today. In other words stock pictures of buildings or something might be traced into the background of a drawing to save precious production time. But the people doing that could draw a building just fine, it was just a time saving trick.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BuckWeisel View Post
    Tracing your own work like when cleaning up a drawing is okay.

    When you're learning to draw, tracing others doesn't teach you anything. The fundamental part of drawing is making accurate marks. Working on your hand-eye coordination so that you can make the strokes you want as well as have confident and expressive line work. Removing that step of the drawing by tracing only hinders your progress.
    I agree. Which is why I found myself ponderous of the ways it can be utilized for learning.

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    What BuckWeisel says. Tracing might help to practice steady hand, but you can get that with your own work anyway. Otherwise, if you are tracing lines you are just imitating the end result, but not the work that the original artist had done to build the picture. You're missing what you really need.

    It's OK to analyze the artist's thinking, technique, brushwork etc., even imitate it, which is what "master copy" method is really about. But simple-minded copying gets you nowhere.

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    Can sometimes be a handy tool when a deadline's looming and a client's breathing down your neck, but you won't learn squat from it.

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    It worked for Cambiaso. Teaching drawing is an interesting field. I've had a professor (that I highly respect) say that not everyone can learn to draw. And I've had students that were very, very discouraging. To the point where I wondered what was physically wrong with their eyes - just no ability at all to measure distances and proportions.

    Tracing is about getting the outlines. If I had the opportunity, I'd like to have similar students cut out things from magazines, flip them over, and try to draw the outlines and then turn them around to complete the image. Or draw copies of the cutouts, and then trace over their drawing to catch as many errors as possible. There's something about seeing the object, or figure, that traps some people's minds, and prevents them from breaking down the basic, geometric forms. Loomis claims anyone can learn to draw, and that he used to be a hopeless case for his teachers.

    Tracing certain things might help you, possibly, but you want to learn how to measure on your own with your eyes. Also, as Elwell says, if you can't draw, you can't trace.

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    Hiya, I agree with what's been said, tracing can be a useful learning process but only if you're familiar with how to draw what you're tracing.

    I used a light projector machine at college alot (can't remember the name of it but it was a huge machine that you put your picture you were tracing from in the bottom of and it got lit from underneath and was projected onto your paper which was on a seperate sheet of glass above it, there were two knobs to twist to change the size and placement to whatever you needed- was quite nifty). The tutors encouraged us to use it to trace whatever we needed to get down fast for deadlines, but they still expected us to have a copy of the picture next to the paper we were drawing on as well so we could pick up details that were quite often lost. We then redrew over the traced lines to put our personality back into it (which get's lost as well if you're tracing).

    It was useful, however I've never used one since and I haven't missed it. It's just like any tool really, if you have a use for it (like in animation for example) then use it, but as a tool to learn how to draw, I wouldn't rely on it.

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    Well, I just want to get peopleís opinions on this, I donít consider it particularly cheating but I do wonder how effective or helpful it might be, if at all.

    I was in an art class; we were making observational drawings from a photo for whatever reason, one of the other students was struggling with a part of their drawing. The teacher took a piece of tracing paper, drew over the part of the photo the student was having trouble with and the put them beside each other to compare. I think the idea was to see how the lines would go if the photo was a drawing. I donít think the tracing was ever used to fix the drawing directly such as putting it on top and transferring it onto the freehand drawing.
    I think you could probably do the same for a still life with a piece of see-through plastic and whiteboard marker.

    I can see in the long run as far as developing observational skills it probably wonít be best if someone becomes reliant on it, but for a beginner or just for someone who want a quick way to see where they might be going wrong.

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    Hm, I don't know. When I work on portraits, I always use a grid system. However once, I was feeling lazy and just decided to trace the photo I was drawing. I don't think my heart was in it after that though, it looked terrible, so I just scrapped it. Thus not learning anything.

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    When i was sketching faces from photos, i could not get the eyes right. So i took a separete piece of paper and traced the outline of the photo and compaired it to my freehand drawing. It was much easier to see where i was going wrong with the eyes and then redraw it on my freehand sketch correctly. I would take that as tracing helping me to learn.

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    Extensive earlier discussion on this topic here:
    http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...d.php?t=113058
    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    ...if you can't draw, you can't trace.
    Or, more precisely, the better you draw the better you trace.
    Tracing can be a useful tool in that it takes the "drawing" (i.e. proper placement and sizing) problems away and allows you to concentrate on mark making. Since a large part of drawing is muscle memory, for some people this is very helpful. Also, it can be a valuable lesson to people to see how bad their tracings actually are, since it points out deficiencies in their understanding.



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    I think loomis said had a story about tracing, but I can't remember very well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TASmith View Post
    I've had students that were very, very discouraging. To the point where I wondered what was physically wrong with their eyes - just no ability at all to measure distances and proportions.
    I myself have just recently learned the use of proportions, relations etc and it has really really helped me. That being said, I learned in a class with other students and some of them seemed to either intentionally not acknowledge the errors regarding those aspects or simply couldn't see them at all.

    Just an interesting observation I suppose. I have had teachers say there is no talent only hard work and others say some people simply aren't able to comprehend it. Again, interesting.

    I am always wondering while drawing etc.....what is the BEST way to learn and become the best artist you can be? Is there a BEST way? How do you know when you are learning while drawing aside from simply memorization? When do you move on to another piece when studying?

    I have heard "There is two artists, one who sits down and thinks they are going to make their masterpiece and one who says they are going to do a ton of quicker renderings and iterations. Every time........the artist who does a ton of renderings, makes better masterpieces".

    What do you think about that?

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    The longer you work and the more care you put into it, the better you get. A lot of professionals recommend thumbnails, but not everyone does it all the time. The better you get as an artist, the quicker you find solutions to each assignment/artwork and the less planning you have to do, although each work always requires something different.

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    "Can an artist learn from tracing? How and why?"

    Yes. With photos they quickly aquire factual information. With artworks they learn to feel fine proportions, and other aspects of design, they accurately appreciate and savor every point they cover in the image. The success of any method depends on the intelligence of the artist.

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    Trace in conjunction with drawing. Sometimes it's helpful. Other times it's not. It's not cheating, though, unless you fail to name the reference. I mean, try it out; it's a different method of laying the pencil on the paper. Whatever, right?

    What do you guys think about using the David Hockney method thing? Projecting? Using a chambre claire like Bouguereau?

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    As a personal rule I only trace when I have to clean up a drawing, but that's a rare event.

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    I believe it can help build up a certain feel for how other artists draw their line, you know? Out of curiousity it might be a fun excercise tracing another artist artwork just to feel the lines of another artists, in a spiritual, nonsense kind of way

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    A large part of the act of drawing is knowing where the mark starts and stops. Where do you place it in relation to the others, how long is it, how far does it curve, etc. Getting that accuracy from memory recall is a tough challenge, which comes through extensive repetition, and that relies on repeating it correctly in the first place with proper training. If that repetition comes partly by tracing, well fine, as long as you eventually leave it behind and do it on your own. If necessary, just use the traced source to only mark where things go, and then set it aside. Get to where you can take off the training wheels and ride like a grown-up.

    Another aspect of drawing (in one sense) is translating the object from 3D to 2D. If that object or scene is already in 2D (someone else's photo or drawing) then most of the work has been done for you. That is where the "cheating" accusation comes from. You're taking shortcuts at someone else's expense and either claiming it as your own (which is not playing nice) or robbing yourself by not learning how to start from where they did. If it's someone else's drawing, you may also be copying their mistakes. If it's your drawing or photo used as a reference, that's the ideal option. You'll also be less restricted by how someone else did it. The sooner you get to a point where you rely on your own skill from start to finish the better.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jeris82 View Post
    I have heard "There is two artists, one who sits down and thinks they are going to make their masterpiece and one who says they are going to do a ton of quicker renderings and iterations. Every time........the artist who does a ton of renderings, makes better masterpieces".

    What do you think about that?
    I read a similar account from one of the books I got from the library.
    In it, the author tells the story of a classroom, where the teacher divides the class into 2 groups.

    She asks one group to make a clay model of a pot, and told them to make the model PERFECT. So, the group sat down and planned on paper, discuss, strategize, analyze, investigate, debate, theorized, and finally began to work on making the most perfect-looking, best clay model of the pot.

    She got the other group to make many many clay models of the pot, and told them to just try their best. If one clay model sucks, chuck it and then try to make the next one better. This continued on and on, till the teacher got both groups to stop.

    At the end of the lesson, the 2nd group (the one that made lots of non-perfect clay pot models) had the better-looking model.
    The 1st group came up with shit.



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    If you're going to use it as a learning tool, you must be concious that that is what you're doing and not let it become crutch. Use it more at the start and then back off quickly until you don't need it any more. It's a tool and use it as such.There is tons more satisfaction to be had from being free.


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    A lot of good points and views have been made.

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    If I remember correctly Greg Manchess talks about tracing as a method of learning in this interview http://www.sidebarnation.com/my_webl...urney-man.html. I can't quite remember what he said now, but it's worth a listen either way.

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    I think tracing can help as long as you understand the whys of what you're tracing. Like, why is this arm in this shape? Why is this line here, but not on the other side? In other words, learning as you trace along.

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    For me, the only value in tracing is simply reproducing a cleaner version of your own work; its more like a technique than a means of learning. I appreciate what everyone is saying, but IMO, forget tracing and look to reproduce the original with your eyes instead. First and foremost, training your 'artist's eye' to understand the relationship between shapes, distances, proportion, etc... is critical, and trying to reproduce and image is a great way to do this, and also to understand how the original artist worked and thought.
    I remember a project where I was asked to recreate an existing charcoal portrait at 16" using the same mediums and paper that the artist had originally used himself. At first I didn't think much of it, but by the end of the process, I was sure it was probably one of the most eye opening projects I'd ever done. Through trial and error I came to the same artistic conclusions the original artist did, not to mention learned several new techniques in the attempt to recreate the original work and finally stepped into the life and perspective of another artist, if only for a brief moment.
    Anyway, tracing, again, is a technique (to me), where as recreating an image for the purpose of practice, I think, is among the best artistic exercises available to us.

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    Also, i wanted to mention I have heard from a comic artist that inking over another artists linework has taught him things.

    Just another semi interesting observation.

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    I heard stories of tracing being what made children decide they want to be an artist when they grow up, and it's great for refining line quality without redoing the entire drawing, I've traced a single drawing up to five or maybe more O_O times. "Lightboxes for the win!"

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    This ground has been covered before, here. It's a very interesting read. The best part? Here: Neal Adams says, 'trace your ass off!'

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    yes,a student can learn from tracing.
    off cours depend from the method.
    the name of method is "fota"(from the greek,accuracy sight)
    at first tracing only the stucture and the essential element.

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    You absolutely can learn from tracing. I like to trace the fundamental structure of the figure and break it down into basic shapes or gestures. I also like to trace photographs to learn more about how vanishing points converge and are placed.

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