Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Is tracing cheating?

This is a little different topic than normal but I just wanted to get the blogs votes on this. I had a kid hit me up by email asking me some art questions and to look at his work because he wanted a internship or a job here at Cartoon. First of all i don't know you and two you ain't good enough for me to put my neck on the line for. lol! Ok but anyway, he drew this horse and it looked like a damn gold fish. I told him yo that horse is jacked up use some reference which he wrote back and said he did so i told him to trace the horse and just add some of his own style to it afterward just to get the proportions right, He says tracing is cheating and real artist don't trace. Duh what do you think animation is. You trace back frames so things stay on model and some of the greatest artist out trace things or paint over photos. In the end they make it their own work. But anyway I told the kid I can't do nothing for him since he already knows everything. Wish i saved his work I'd post it lol.


Blogger Q7d2 said...


3:04 AM  
Blogger SketchbookAllstars said...

WRONG, tracing IS cheating! Wow you have grossly misled this poor kid, Andre. I'm stunned. If what you do is trace something and then slap some of your "style" into it you ARE cheating! You're cheating yourself and faking it! You don't learn about the structure of a 3 dimesional thing by tracing from a 2 dimensional thing. Let me take a moment here to make the distinction between tracing and re-drawing. When you animate something you do not "trace" it you re-draw the thing. You re-work it. Some artists use projectors to use as a guide for a painting but you have to understand what is going on beyond the image that you see. knowledge of form, shapes, anatomy and draftsmanship is required. All tracing is good for is wrist excercise.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Jamal Otolorin said...

I had a teacher in Art school that used to always say "use references my friend" his name was Elio Guevara a very talent painter and artist. However there is a huge difference between looking at a reference to get ideas and then translating what u see to paper, and actually just sticking the photo or art under a clean sheet of paper and tracing it. This will not help you as an artist. I think the trick behind becoming a better artist is learning how to see. When u trace you are just copying someone else's vision. They have already did the hardwork, And that just makes u a cheap trick of the Donald Urbane variety.

8:21 AM  
Blogger babadawud said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:31 AM  
Blogger babadawud said...

My high school art teacher frowned on tracing. He even frowned on us using photographic reference. He said use reality. You can move around the object. See things from all angles. Problem I found later is that I would make up alot of stuff cause I never liked to use photographic reference. Hence, my style became an "unreferenced" style 'cause of my interpretation of what my art teacher told me. Now it's not his fault because it actually taught me to be more observent and use my imagination as well. For commercial art I didn't understand how people were making stuff look so real . . . they were using reference! So I learned that reference is not bad and I wouldn't consider tracing bad if you already studied the foundation and you are using it for effect of a certain look. But not to learn the art of drawing.

Also, Andre don't be so hard on the young guy. He may talk like he knows alot and his stuff may not be all that but let him see you as the leader, the guide. Don't get frustrated with kids like him. They need guidance that's all.

8:35 AM  
Blogger babadawud said...

Oh for those who may not know, Donald Urbane was a character from Brotherman comics who made his career off of copying and forging other artists works since he did not have it within himself to create credible works of art.

Good one Jamal! Haha!

8:50 AM  
Blogger Dustin said...

I like the discussion thread Im seeing here. and I'd like to add my 2¢.

At a very early age young artists should be taught the partice of acute observation. The problem with "Tracing" is lack of undertanding when it comes to the translation of observation to material. Something as simple and powerful as line quality is lost in tracing. However, I dont see tracing as CHEATING I see it as crippling. and at a very young age no one should be taught how to be a better Cripple. Physically or Metally.


10:03 AM  
Blogger Dawood Marion said...

Well I haven't read all of the posts on this subject, but it depends on how old the person is or what the overall intention is. When you think about it, if tracing is gonna get you paid ?! Then I say trace the fricken' Mona Lisa. However there is a line - if this person is purely doing it on some ol' RAH' RAH' (look at my styles stuff) - then thats when it's booty. The person in question I think was trying to get an intership. If a trace can get you there - then "Just Do It".
My opinion on tracing is, it is a powerful technique if used properly. If you trace something with intention to learn how to draw it, you will eventually do just that. Your mind, arm and hand needs to get familiar with the lines and curves of the subject matter.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Sam I Am said...

I say yes and no.

Yes, when you become a professional artist. Anything you produce, sell, promote as your own, your own style, your mark, your brand should not involve tracing. I think along those lines that is cheating, and it is cheap, and you cheat yourself out of the whole experience and skill of what an artist is.

Then I say no, depending on where you are skill/level wise. Are you a young one just beginning and tracing your favorite comic book inker or penciler? Trying to get a feel for what they're doing. How many of you were inspired by comics and began your journey as an artist by tracing, then you eventually moved on to doing your own and growing into your own style, getting your art hand strong so you used tracing as a means to an end. then I'd have to say no.

But at some point one has to step away from that and learn, like some of the others have mentioned, what those lines mean, and how form, and funtion and wieght and balance in your drawings comes from practice, and observation from reference as well as life.

Great discussion topic!

10:41 AM  
Blogger kennbivins.com said...

Drew Struzan is an renowned illustrator and god of layout. He works from Hollywood stills and actor slicks but he doesn't trace. I challenge anyone to find a portrait that aligns to ANY poster Drew has ever painted demonstrating he traces. The man is SO good he has people claiming he traces. Wow.

And what painter doesn't use reference... and I don't mean fingerpainting. And for the record, I don't trace at all. I buy all of my illustrations off the internet LOL

11:23 AM  
Blogger babadawud said...

You know what? To directly answer the question . . . tracing is cheating. I copied from comics when I was little but I never traced. Even as a child I though tracing was lame when other kids did it. It was like there was no flavor to the image.

In the professional world tracing can be used to increase volume or to just sell an image. Like airbrushing, sometimes we may take a photo and project it onto a shirt and use that as the guide so that the proportions are exact. So as Andre was saying, it is necessary and effective in certain cases. Doing shirts is about volume and many times there is no time to make each one a masterpiece. However there are those who are limited to tracing and copying but if you ask them to just make something up they're work may take a turn for the worse and look elementary. So it is a cheat but it is a useful cheat in certain artistic situations.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Q7d2 said...

There is different kinds of tracing there is the kind of tracing where you just copy a picture I dint think any serious artist is going for that but tracing to help you figure something out so you can go back and draw it with a better understanding of the form is the kind of tracing i think that is fine. Drew Struzan traces Alex Ross uses allot of reference. But you must know the basic principles of drawing to trace well.

1:24 PM  
Blogger SketchbookAllstars said...

I say it's cheating because when I was a kid I used carbon paper to copy comic images and I was robbing myself the precious opportunity of learning why the artist zig instead of zags. It was fun and looked cool for about 5 minutes but in the scheme of someone who is trying to get a job and presents a portfolio of traced images, I'm sorry but that is simply dishonest.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Dustin said...

Dang, this is a heated topic!

Which is great.

But honestly I dont think it's about cheating.
Let's face it if you trace everything you produce or get in the habit of doing just that. You will limit or inhibit your potetial skill set. Tracing can be a drawing technique but it is NOT drawing and it is NOT illustration... BUt I tell you this.. there is nothing sadder than seeing an artist in a real production environment that cannot hold his or her own when it comes to the work. You wont get very far. Unless you got the gift of gab like Warhol.


2:56 PM  
Blogger Q7d2 said...

Yo I'm sorry but Tracing is indeed whack but its not cheating if your job is to tell a story and you can illustrate the story by tracing a photo and enhancing it then job well done.

Oh.... and Kenn how you doin?
Me? I'm chillin can't complain.

But Drew traces alllllllll day he does not draw good.
If he is that amazing how come all we ever see from him is finished illustrations? Never a sketch or sketchbook, just a bunch of dead on portraits traced from a photo. Travis Charest uses reference and he has a ill sketchbook. Adam Hughes uses reference and he always has sketches. I respect your opinion of drew and he is very successful but he is a tracer.
Boris Vallejo doesn't trace he uses allot of reference and his stuff Amazingly boring. it looks like sports illustrated swimsuit models standing on a lizard. So if you trace or draw or use reference, you still have to bring creativity to the table or you will not get good results.

12:01 AM  
Blogger kennbivins.com said...

I am a fan of Drew's work from back in the day and Adam Hughes, a peer and friend, is the BIGGEST fan of Drew's work. He and Brian Stelfreeze introduced me to Drew Struzan.

Drew has published several examples of his work beyond painting posters. The most comprehensive one is the beautiful coffee table book, "Drew Struzan: Oeuvre." You can also see some sketches of his at drewstruzan.com.

I'm not the dude's representative or anything but he does deserve respect as he is one of the illustration pioneers of our time like J.C. Leyendecker was over 40 years ago. People blast Alex Ross for using reference but Alex is an awesome draftsman as well. Adam has a 2 minute sketch of Alex's rendition of me in one of his sketchbooks :)

Yes, tracing is wrong as a constant means. It is obvious when someone traces. Half the comic book artists today trace or use TOO much photo reference. I learned at the age of three to draw from initially tracing but those days are far behind me. Drawing from life (and not lines) will always seperate the men and women from the boys and snot-nosed girls.

6:13 AM  
Blogger SketchbookAllstars said...

HA, Boris's stuff IS boring as hell. (In my humble opinion)

7:07 AM  
Blogger Q7d2 said...

yeah i never did dig Boris I am a Frazetta Fan!

10:09 AM  
Blogger Andre Moore said...

I don't like tracing a image to the point you can tell you traced it. If I can look at a illustration and tell you traced it then its cheating. Just use the damn photo you got it from. People like Kadir Nelson are bad to the bone. I'm damn sure he uses reference and maybe even traced some here and there but that don't make his art any less then hot.There have been freelance gigs where i had to draw a likeness and they kept saying it doesn't looks like me or whatever so i went in and traced the proportions of the face and what not really light and then did my own thing on top and balm it looked like the person and i got my LOOT lol! If you can't draw something and you still cant draw it with ref. I say trace it lol and take that as a learning point to learn how to draw it later. My art teacher in school had no issues with tracing. After time you get better and won't have to. I'm a reference artist. Thats why I love Dawaud's stuff so damn much because him and Brian can make shit up out the top of their heads and blow me away. I was taught to use reference so now I'm at a point i cant draw without it half the time. If you draw like crap with out tracing then tracing hurts you as a artist but if you can draw with or with out it then i think it just helps. Thats just me. Everyone is different but its good to see what everyone thinks of the matter.

1:21 PM  
Blogger babadawud said...

On the real. Art is art. What one person calls cheating another calls a masterpiece. What happens is that there is the fine artist interpretation of this question and then the commercial artist term. To make money? Use reference and trace if you have to in order to get the client out the door. In fact, when doing portraits, the paying customer doesn't care about the technique just, "does it look like me". For fine art this topic gets heated. The respect is normally not given if you copy and trace. Reference is ok.

That is my opinion.

3:03 PM  
Blogger SketchbookAllstars said...

I cant be so greyscale on this. You're not a musician if you play air guitar and lipsync. Where does integrity come into it? Whores do what ever it takes to get paid too.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Jamal Otolorin said...

"whores do what ever it takes to get paid"


3:56 PM  
Blogger Sam I Am said...

damn... whores... ha!

4:18 AM  
Blogger SketchbookAllstars said...

Was that too harsh? I was just trying to make a point. As Im sure most of you are I'm very passionate about art and have worked hard all my life to achieve what I have. This arguement, however is not confined to this thread. I found an article about a controversy where David Hockney's posits theories about how the old masters cheated by using used the camera lucidia! ARC ARTicles - Hockney's Secret Knowledge: Refuted - ARC Staff - Page 1/2

4:39 AM  
Blogger lafe said...

I'm here late and this is probably done..but i'll add my 2 nickels to the topic.

Tracing in and of itself is not cheating. Also you have to consider your audience and your purpose. If you trace someone's artwork...it's cheating and against the law. If you trace a photo without permission, it's against the law.

Tracing can be an artistic skill. For example vector art. Some people when doing vector art trace. Some do it well, and some don't. The artistry is in the designer. I wouldn't call it cheating if someone came up with a masterful design and the images in it were traced. It's like telling someone who does collages that he cheated and isn't an artist cause he didn't draw or take the pics himself. Some people think that using a computer is cheating and is not even worthy to be considered art.

Art is about expression. People express themselves in a number of ways. Tracing can be used as an effective technique in expression.

Don't get me wrong, stealing is stealing, so if one does trace do it lawfully and don't lie about your skill level.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Dadism said...

I think it all comes down to a matter of what you're trying to 'Sell' to your audience.

Marcel Duchamp once commented that the creative process begins with the selection of an art object.

If you're a commercial artist and on a tight deadline then I think tracing the odd photograph is ok. So long as the art is original and the client (audience) like the work then what difference does it make? Furthermore, if you can already draw extremely well, then the concept of tracing becomes a matter of personal choice not cheating. I think the debate in its current incarnation is far too narrow and in some respects outdated.

If you look at the way technology & art has progressed over the past 100 years, then you will see that philosphically, the issue of whether art is really art because it is a tracing, is akin to asking if a brick is really a brick because it's red. I would leave the debate back where it belongs, in the school classroom and out of the professional realm.

3:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nar tracing isnt cheating, especially if you are painting over the top (watercolour painter myself) i can draw perfectly well, however when you are painting a large artwork, sometimes your composition just dosent go together like on your reference page. and also, when you trace something, it definitely doesn't look like the picture you traced, you need to have talent in order to make the artwork resemble the photo.

10:49 PM  
Blogger rod.urbano said...

Come on guys, you´re not been open minded about this "using of references" thing. Depending on the work and on the artists ideia for the work, photo references can come really handy. Everybody that says that doesn´t like photo references and that this way of work is cheating maybe is not familiar with Nornan Rockwell´s work, Adam Hughe´s work, Alex Ross´s work or even Leonardo DaVinci work. They are the great masters of drawing and painting and their work is ALL about photo references (in daVinci´s case, all about his models), but they all knew how to draw. I draw since I was 2 years old and i can draw an elefant taking a dumb from my mind alone, but i adopted the use of photo references as my own style of work, as my persuit to realism. I don´t use lightbox but I don´t condemn the use of it, because is just a language of work, a form of the artist´s dialogue. I´ve created a series called "urban portraits", were i use a lot of photo references but always working on my on style and using that as my advanged.
I belive in ART, no matter how you do it, if it is a good work, doesn´t matter how the artist got there. I think you all should be a little open minded and study all the great masters from drawing and painting and realize that references have always been used in art.

thanks, Rod.

2:08 AM  
Blogger olivia.wafer said...

well, technically its cheating, unless if your using it for practice. i mean i`ve been tracing to pratice art, it does help, so don`t criticize, although its ok to post traced items on the net (just don`t pass it as you own)

8:17 AM  
Blogger Wayne A said...

If you draw or paint something freehand from life, and as an observer then claim it as "your artwork" that's fine. But if you trace it in any way whatsoever then its not all your work: its not your skill. others will judge your result and believe you did it "the hard way" and give you credit...maybe even money, that you don't deserve. Its cheating. If you do not confess your "method" it's lying too :)

6:19 PM  
Blogger Wayne A said...

Photo references: placing a photo in a location where you can clearly see it and draw free-hand from it (no tracing or anything else) is not cheating. You are using observation skills. drawing it and maintaining the final work as a fine work is damn hard and takes great skill. Its only if you trace the photo by any means, then it's unfair. To prove it: how many artists who do trace photos are brave enough to say so? Not many.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Wayne A said...

Boris Vallejo uses photos of models positioned in the poses he wants then "effectively" traces them. They are not drawn free-hand. Everything around the model however is drawn free-hand. So he does cheat to a degree. If you took this element out of his work it would look a lot different. I have his book and there are photos showing what I just described. Gil Evgren used photos as a reference only and didn't trace: his work was superb.

6:30 PM  

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