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On copying and tracing

Journal Entry: Mon Aug 11, 2014, 2:29 AM

The art pages on the internet have a very clear list of cardinal sins. I guess the two Sins that reach the level of "Do not kill", are "Do not copy" and "Do not trace". For me, this hate is not understandable.

But before I will now get buried under the pure hate for such "thieves", let me explain:

We humans learn by copying. This is a fact. While we grow up, we learn how our parents behave and we try to copy this behavior to be like them. (And normally we try to get rid of all that again as soon as we're hitting puberty, but that's a different topic.) We learn how to be human by watching how other humans behave, we learn how to write by watching our teachers write and we learn how to speak by listening to others.

Everything we do, which is not just a reflex movement, we learn by copying from others. Including our fears, btw. If your parents are afraid of mice, chances are good that you will be too (trivial knowledge +1).

And we learn drawing in the very same way. Having an idol in drawing helps many to work hard. But at some point the internet world starts to tell every artist out there, that copying is bad. That learning from others - with that - is bad. And that they have to be original and unique to be worth anything.

I have to remind people here, that in Asia it's a compliment and not seen as something negative. There is no better way to honor your teacher than by copying said teacher. And no bigger compliment than trying to draw like one of your idols.

This mentality sometimes shows a bit when we read manga. Quite often a helping hand of a famous mangaka developes a similar drawing style. Even I tend to confuse the styles sometimes (and I pride myself in having a good eye when it comes to such things). But can you really see the difference between the works of Masashi Kishimoto (Naruto) and his younger twin brother Seishi Kishimoto? Which is just one example of many.

In the Western world we often have to realize, that a famous painting in a museum was not created by Famous Painter X but one of his students. And Famous Painter X just signed it. The student learned the style of said painter up to a point where you can't keep the paintings apart. And the teacher was so nice to sign it, so the student could sell it as an original and get a bit of a boost for his meagre student-income.

Again we see: Learning from a master, trying to be like said master and paint like him (or in rarer cases her), was not seen as a bad thing.

I seriously do not understand where the sudden hate for copying comes from.

I might be able to understand the hate for tracing a bit better. After all, you're not drawing the lines, right? And there is nothing to gain from tracing!

You might be copying the lines to make it easier, but keep in mind that pretty much every kid traces the favorite comic figures to color them. I know I did. Heck, I traced that one cartoon horse I liked so much maybe 10 times a day for WEEKS! Till my parents desperately tried to get me to trace other comics! By tracing those comic figures, I learned how to keep a steady hand and it even helped me understand proportions.

And I got a bit of a feeling of success, since - at this time - I would never have been able to draw that one cartoon horse the way it was in the book.

Granted, I stopped eventually. Tracing only gets you so far and at one point you will have to draw your own lines, your own ideas and with that create your own drawings. But tracing can help you with a few things on the way.

But how can we know if something is "just" copied 1:1 or if it's traced?
An easy question.
We can't know it at all.

Of course it seems suspicious when all the lines are a perfect match. But maybe that person practiced copying drawings for years and now is really good at it. There are tattoo artists who are shit (sorry, language) at drawing anything by themselves, but their copying-technique is so incredible, it would leave you speechless. I'd even go as far as to say it's the job of a tattoo artist to be awesome at copying and tracing. ;)

And there is always the possibility that the artist has a perfect photographic memory and can just "trace the drawing in his/her mind". Using the skills you have at your disposal is definitely not cheating, even if it gives you an edge others might not have. But not using it because others can't use it? That is just plain idiotic. I can't solve the most simple algebra problems without a lot of cursing, but I would never ask others to stop solving them, just because I can't seem to understand the logic behind it.

In a world where you can just change the translucency of a layer, it gets hard to still see the good sides of tracing. It gets too easy, makes things too simple. But we should never forget that we all saw it as a very fun thing to do when we were kids. Some of us even had parents who traced comic figures for us to color. So, instead of going on a rampage the moment someone traces a drawing, we could just enjoy the drawing as it is now. Because even the most perfect tracing will show a bit of the mind and skills of the other artist and can be a stepping stone for more later on.

If that was all a bit much, here is a short summary:
Copying is a great way to compliment the style of someone else AND learn how to do what that person did.
Tracing is a great way to learn how to get the lines and proportions right.
So, go ahead and copy and trace my works as much as you want to! Do that to your hearts content! And try to learn from it, so you can eventually do the same without copying or tracing. :)

Give credit, where credit is due to prevent hate though. Not for me, but to prevent people from skinning you alive.

  • Mood: Confused
  • Drinking: coffee



Artist | Hobbyist | Traditional Art
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The-Purring-Teapot Featured By Owner 1 day ago  Student General Artist
Hello dear human,
I hope you are doing fine.

yours sincerely,
(formerly known as niju-vala)
geddoeblue Featured By Owner 3 days ago
love your stuff
(1 Reply)
daguerreoty-pe Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you for the +fav! :)
pacack825 Featured By Owner Edited Aug 9, 2014
Would you be alright with me printing your R.O.B. artwork on a shirt for my personal use? I'd include your URL on the shirt somewhere and wouldn't be reselling it or profiting off of it. I won't do it if you're uncomfortable with it, of course, but I think it would make one of my favorite shirts.
(1 Reply)
GrimDreamArt Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
A late thanks for faving my tutorial :D
(1 Reply)
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