it's one thing to simply trace over the lines, or simply copy, another thing to study what makes up that artist and learn from them through their drawings. for example, craig mullins mentioned an image in one of his posts on sijun.com where he copied one of john singer sargent's paintings. sargent's a master in color, and craig was studying his use of color.
right now, i'm studying and copying phil hale's art... he has a frickin incredible way with lines.. i've been trying to figure him out and muddling his style into my own. so far, it's helped me a ton with my figure drawings and how i use lines. [i got through a block and have been drawin like crazy.]
anyway, i think you get the picture
i encourage you to copy, but don't just copy.. know what you're looking for and apply it and stuff.
To copy helps me a lot. I can "see" quite well (meaning that I don't let my imagination of what a thing should look like) come in my way. However, sometimes I don't know where to close a line or shape and where to leave it open (eg. lips, elbows etc.). To copy helps me to learn how other artists do this. When I copy and it still doesn't come out well I even trace till I understand.
I was also taught that it's bad to copy and trace. But since I frequently attend several forums I have learned that it's absolutely legitimate, that it's how the pros learned and even the great masters of art like da Vinci, Rembrandt and so on.
i would say either is good. drawing is a skill that is developed through application, you cant learn by reading about it or looking at it. you have to get paint under your fingernails - you have to get dirty. i feel you learn more drawing when studying from life. i think drawing from life keeps you from drawing in a two dimentional way of thinking. my junior high and highschool teachers pushed it .. i never found copying a photograph or making master study's fun in the slightest anyhow, so my opinion is biased and nurtured. you know the master study assignment in which the teacher instructs you to try to copy the peice of art. heck, i hate copying my own work.
practice makes perfect.
smart study will make you a better artist, at least that is what i say.
My take is..... last time i really copied something was in 2nd grade. I looked at the front cover of the mario 2 box, and tryed to "copy" mario. I just wanted to draw him. I've always shuned myself away from copying things too closely since then. Now a days... i assimilate information. I look and look... and walk away... think about things... then draw what i remember. Ususally i fail... but my mind starts to notice what i did wrong on my own. Therefor my mind corrects itself over time. To ,ME, this is the most honest way to learn. I know what looks right... It just just doesnt go down on paper right.. and i eventaully learn on my own hwo to fix it. Its my method. Its slower.... but it feels content, and worth it not to cheat myself.
Sure.. if i copied anatomy out of comic books throughout highschool I would probably be a "better artist". But I'd slap myself before i ever did that. I draw inspiration from sources... but never sit down with a black sheet of paper next to it.. mimicing what i see. Now.... anatomy books... are slightly different.. .. those where made to teach. Draw what you see... but hopefully you learn the concepts of anatomy and not just "going though the same motions" everytime.
ie: at school a kid scanned a basic human male out of an anatomy book... ploped him in maya as an image plane.. and traced... TRACED... the outline with geometery... thats poor. His model wasnt even that good in the end. I studied an anatomy book.... figureed out the scale of a human in relation to his other body parts... walked away... and drew my own human male.. using the knowledge i has read about. Needness to say if my model was better or not... My process of going about it was more worth while.
You really have to interpret what you see on a deeper level.
Drawing from life.... is a entirely different art form in my opinion. No one can own a scene from reality.
Anyways... do what you feel is nessesary to learn But in the end here's to the hopes that you learned enough to do things on your own... from different angles and more like you own style.
I´ve always been too bored to copy the work of other artists. In fact it´s just the interpretation of an interpretation and you maybe copy the flaws of someone. Even Artists like Dürer used deliberately "wrong" methods to achieve some effects. By simply copying works without knowing WHY the artists did it this way you learn nothing.
Imho a good way to get a start in life-drawing - if you aren´t fast enough to sit on the street with your sketchbook - is to take photos from magazines and work them out with whatever medium you like. Try different ways, try to simplicize form and get movements, outlines, people, whatever on your paper. Try to be fast and don´t think too much. Sooner or later you begin to develop a sense for anatomy, perspective etc.
I´ve learned on this way a Layout-Style I had to use in the ads in the 80´s (before computers struck the advertisment agencies - I´m REALLY old ... ;-) and I´m reverting from time to time to this techniques to refresh different matters. At the moment I´m cpoying stuff from photos to get back into better drapery.
Sorry for my english ... I can better describe armour parts and medieval clothing than drawing techniques