Art Materials Needed For Each Project:
- All 6 ways to trace will need a reference photo.
- Paper, reference, and pencil.
- Tracing Paper
4. Carbon paper, paper, pencil
5. Clear Lamination sheet, dry erase marker,
6. printer (optional)
7. Window, paper, and tape (optional)
DEBUNKING ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS ARTIST MYTHS:
ARTISTS MAKE EVERYTHING UP FROM IMAGINATION
Artist Myth #1: Artists make everything up from their own imagination, they don't look at anything for reference. They don't need to.
Truth: Artists DO look at everything. They NEED to. In order for us to understand the world around us, we are CONSTANTLY referring to reality. Real trees to look at, real shadows, real colors, real composition, real perspective. We are ALWAYS on the lookout.
We often make sketches of our breakfast, or our shoes, or you pushing your child in the swing at the park. Then, we have captured a moment, that sometimes can catch things differently than a photograph. We have captured it with our hearts and our hard earned scribbles. Then, we may take some of those sketches further, clean them up, expand on them, add detail (many times from our imagination) and then add paint. Tracing that sketch I had made 6 years ago, can be helpful to see if there were a few compositional tweaks I may want to test out.
WHEN IS IT OKAY TO TRACE?
There are many reasons to trace.
Transferring your own sketches. I will sometimes sketch a smaller thumbnail drawing, then I will use a projector to make it as large as a table and trace it. I most often use this technique to transfer small, delicate patterns.
Animation art. Cartoon artists, called Animators, will sketch a drawing, then take tracing paper and a light box; they will put their original drawing underneath and trace it, then draw their cartoon character doing the next motion.
Learning. In order to learn, we must emulate. We must learn from someone else. Luckily, in the arts, we have many masters to emulate and learn from. To copy an art piece, or to trace a drawing, in order to learn from it, would absolutely be okay. (Without selling the art-piece, of course. Selling it would be a forgery. That would be bad.)
DIY Design and Personal Artwork. I traced a bird in the video, using a book I own. I could use that traced image, transfer it to watercolor paper, paint it and make a greeting card with it. Or use that bird to turn digital and make some changes and you are free to do as you wish with it.
Testing a composition. It is smart to try several compositions before you decide on a finished design for a painting. These often come in the form of a thumbnail sketch. However, you may like a couple, tracing some items to test out the feel of the composition. This strategy would be a strong tool.
These above were the basics, but the list can go on and on and on... But don't stop there, we have many other ways to trace listed below.
Suzanne's World Map Table (Yes, if you look closely there are Narnia, Middle Earth & Neverland included. :)
OTHER WAYS TO TRACE
There are many ways to trace. I mentioned the use of a projector above. I recently used this when I painted the world on my table. PLEASE don't ask me to do the grid lesson on that to figure it out. It took almost an hour to just trace all the continents. I am very happy with how it turned out.
Speaking of the "Grid" lesson, this is a regularly taught lesson by taking a picture, or in real life using the Sight-Size Method, then putting lines over the whole picture, either line with a pencil, a clear paper or with yarn. These lines separate the picture into small manageable square or rectangle quadrants. Each square has 4 lines to refer to and a small manageable portion of drawing to do internally.
Devices are another quick trace. I haven't done this myself, I worry about the screen, but you could put a lamination sheet between the paper and the tablet screen while you trace your reference photo to protect the screen.
Photography. Is that a means to copying real life?
TRACING CAN BE A MEANS TO A QUICKER RESULT
When my art students are focusing on learning watercolors, we will sometimes trace our subject in order to focus in on our watercolor skills during the relatively brief and precious time we have in art class. I will not neglect to teach my students how to draw and to encourage them to sketch regularly.
TRACING AS A TOOL
Tracing and copying, not as a habit but as a TOOL used appropriately, can be very beneficial and even "up" your game. I see artists and illustrators use copying to better understand an artist. I see artists and illustrators using tracing as part of their TOOLSET. I will always encourage drawing, drawing skills and the regular practice and refinement of your sketching. There are so many lessons in drawing something yourself affords. Tracing can just add on to that as a tool.
How do YOU use tracing and copying? Comment below.