Maybe I should let a dead horse lie, but I was reading the end of the thread about "professional cheaters", which is now closed. At some point in that thread, someone said something to the effect of, "Tracing is lazy," and I wanted to make a comment that may help put it in perspective.
I can see where someone would think that tracing a referenced photo is the easy way out, but in reality, it really really isn't. I know when I'm working on something, if I let laziness get the better of me, it's not tracing I fall back on. It's drawing something out of my head that I was too lazy to look up properly.
You see, for the most part we have no excuse to not do our homework and make sure something looks correct. I can draw a figure out of my head, and while not perfect, it's good enough that I'd get paid for it. However, there's no reason for me to have to rely on my own faulty memory and imagination when I have it within my power to shoot some photos of my own, and research costume details. However, it's time consuming. I have to find a model, preferably one that matches the body type I want. Preferably one that can act a bit. I have to find the time to meet with the model and shoot some photos, and I have to be able to direct them, set up lights, and take a half way decent photo to work from. Then I need to sift through the photos to find the one that works best. Or more likely the several that work best, which I then have to frankenstein together to get what I really want.
And then I might "trace" the photo. Except I'm really not. I'm basically drawing over the photo, making a ton of changes and corrections as I go. This "tracing" isn't much different than refining a sketch which you have already built the basic structure for. I've saved myself the small step of sketching out that basic form, a step that at this point should be largely unneeded because I've used other methods to work out the same problems.
If there is perspective in a painting, it's the same thing. I COULD draw it, and it would look convincing enough. OR I could plot it out in 3D, and it would be accurate. It would be faster to wing it, but there's no excuse to do it the lazy way when I know a way to do it and have it be correct. "Aha!" you might say. "The alternative doesn't have to be to wing it. You could plot it out on paper! You could do it the 'real' way!" You are right, I could, but what is the point? My job isn't to prove I can do it manually, it's to make a good image that pleases my client. Do we think that the scientists at NASA are writing out their math on paper? Or are they using computers to do the tedious part, letting them focus on more important issues? It's useful to know how to draw perspective manually, as there are a lot of lessons that teach you how objects interact in space, but the point of learning that stuff isn't to force you to do it all the time, it's to launch you forward on a larger understanding of picture making. Just like once you learn long division and move on to harder concepts, no one really cares if you continue to work the math out on paper any more.
The reality is, "professional cheaters" are working very hard to make the best image they can, and it's HARDER than not doing it. It's EASIER to wing it, and not worry about making the work as good as it could be.