The Art of Tracing

Nov 11, 2014

18 comments

I know, it’s cheating right? Not necessarily. I have a different view of tracing.

A fear of drawing seems to be a student’s number one fear. A fear like that should not keep someone from learning the technical skills of painting. So, in my classes I offer a drawing for those who would otherwise be too afraid to come to give painting a try. They can relax, trace the drawing on their paper, then learn a few technical skills and build up their creativity, too.

Some believe tracing is a big no-no! Many think that it is cheating, including the students who do it. But after many years of teaching, I find it is just the opposite. It is an excellent tool of sorts to teach drawing to the skittish. I am talking about “mindful” tracing, not the kind where you’re chit-chatting with your neighbor while you do it. That, in fact, is the only thing wrong with tracing — that you can do it while your mind is completely elsewhere. Whereas in drawing from life, you have to be totally focused on what you are doing. So, if you use that same focus when you are tracing you will get many of the same benefits. Yes you will. Don’t argue. Think about it.

For example, when you draw a line, whether it be from life or by tracing you are using the same mental process. The same coordination between the eyes and the hand that you use if you’re actually drawing from life. When you draw something in front of you, you are actually tracing that form in your mind. Your eye sees a portion of that line and you keep that vision in your mind while you mentally project it onto your paper. And then you try to draw a line that matches that mental image. Eventually, with practice you get quite good at it. And it is the same with tracing.

MINDFUL TRACING TEACHES YOU

  • To notice details as you record them on the paper.
  • Move your eye and hand together.
  • Commit to memory the details of each and every object you trace. Especially if you do them many times over a period of time, even if there’s a big gap of time in between.
  • Tracing is also a great way to become familiar with the figure and how to draw it. You can even learn directly from the best by tracing over the figures drawn by the Masters.

TRACING IS USEFUL IN OTHER WAYS TOO

Take a look at these examples below. When painting from a photograph in the studio, or sometimes before going out on location to sketch, I sometimes do the following exercise.

TT1111-2     TT1111-3

I find both of these subjects rather difficult to draw. So, I help myself out. I lay a sheet of tracing paper over the photo and trace it. Suddenly what was very daunting has been turned into simple shapes. The tangle of objects in the photos has been simplified and doesn’t seem nearly as difficult to draw. Not only that, it helps me clarify the composition. But that is fodder for another blog post.

So you see, tracing IS valid. I tell my students not to feel guilty about tracing. It is only cheating if you use it to pass off someone else’s work as your own. It is never dishonest to use it as a tool for improving your own skill.

That being said, I don’t want to give you the impression that tracing is a substitute for drawing. It’s not. Drawing can be one of the most pleasurable and fulfilling activities for an artist. And everyone should be exposed to that pleasure! Everyone, and I repeat EVERYONE, can learn to draw. Of this I am certain. Most everyone has a fear of it, and most everyone can use some help learning how to do it. That’s normal.

If you are curious about learning to draw, you may be interested in my 30-day Drawing Challenge. It’s FREE and still on my website. It will only scare you a little…..and you can do it in the privacy of your own home. You can do it. Here’s a direct link:  http://www.kathiegeorge.com/category/lessons/30day/.

And now, on a personal note, my life has gotten rather complicated lately. I know that all of you occasionally have the same sort of situation. I guess it is just part of life. However, there may be times in the next few months that ‘TIPS on Tuesday” may become ‘Every Other Tuesday Tips”. I will do my best, but please forgive the occasional miss.

Thanks for reading!
Kathie xo

18 comments

  1. Barb butler says: November 11, 2014
  2. Mary Ann says: November 11, 2014
  3. Kathy Haid says: November 11, 2014
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  14. Lynne Wesolowski says: November 15, 2014