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Is it ok to trace?

Short answer YES! Read on...

Artists constantly seek inspiration from the world around them, and one rich source of inspiration is photography. While the act of tracing photographs has been a topic of debate in the art community, it is essential to acknowledge that tracing can be a legitimate and valuable technique for artists. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of tracing photos and why it's okay for artists to embrace this method as a means of enhancing their creativity and pushing the boundaries of their artistic expression.

Harnessing the Power of Photography

Photography captures fleeting moments, emotions, and exquisite details that often serve as excellent references for artists. Tracing a photograph enables artists to study its composition, lighting, and intricate details, helping them grasp the essence of the image. By tracing a photo, artists can effectively translate the unique qualities captured by the camera lens into their chosen medium, such as painting, drawing, or digital art.

Appreciating Photorealism

Photorealism is a genre of art that strives to replicate photographs with astonishing precision. Tracing photos allows artists to achieve photorealistic effects by carefully mapping out the correct proportions, as well the nuances of light and shadow, the intricacies of texture, and the subtle gradations of color.

Learning the Art of Observation

Tracing photos encourages artists to develop their observational skills. By carefully studying the intricate details and proportions of a photograph, artists gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter. This practice enhances their ability to perceive and replicate the world around them, ultimately leading to improved freehand drawing and the development of a more discerning eye. Tracing photos becomes a valuable exercise in honing one's skills and elevating the quality of their artistic output.

Gaining Confidence and Creative Freedom

For emerging artists or those who may feel uncertain about their abilities, tracing photos can serve as a confidence-building exercise. It offers a starting point and a sense of achievement, allowing artists to gradually transition from referencing photographs to creating original pieces. Tracing provides a level of structure and guidance that nurtures artistic confidence, empowering artists to experiment, take risks, and develop their own unique visual language.

Respecting Copyright

When tracing photos, it is crucial to respect copyright law. Artists should either seek permission from the photographer or use royalty-free and public domain images as references. Proper attribution and recognition of the original source are essential. By adhering to these ethical guidelines, artists can enjoy the benefits of tracing while maintaining respect for intellectual property rights. The Art with Amy has a Google Drive with photos that are royalty free and permission has already been sought to use.

Methods of tracing

Here are some commonly used methods artists employ for tracing:

  1. Lightbox or Light Table: A lightbox or light table is a flat, illuminated surface that allows artists to place a reference image on top and trace it onto another sheet of paper or canvas. The light shining through the reference image makes the lines visible, aiding the tracing process. You can also use a bright window in your house for this method.

  2. Transfer Paper: Transfer paper, also known as carbon paper, is a thin sheet coated with a transferable pigment or graphite. Artists place the transfer paper between the reference image and the drawing surface, applying pressure while tracing the lines. The pigment or graphite on the transfer paper leaves a duplicate of the lines on the drawing surface.

  3. Tracing Paper: Tracing paper is a translucent paper that artists can place over a reference image and trace the lines directly onto it. The transparency of the paper allows artists to see both the reference image and the traced lines simultaneously. The tracing paper is then put on your blank paper face down, and you press on the drawn lines to transfer them.

  4. Grid Method: With the grid method, artists divide both the reference image and the drawing surface into a grid of evenly spaced squares. By focusing on one square at a time, artists can replicate the image by tracing or transferring the lines within each corresponding square. This method helps maintain accurate proportions and can be used with a lightbox, tracing paper, or freehand drawing.

  5. Projector: Artists can use a projector to display the reference image onto the drawing surface. The projected image can then be traced or used as a guide for creating the artwork. This method is commonly used for large-scale works or when intricate details need to be accurately replicated.

  6. Digital Tracing: In the digital realm, artists can use graphics software, apps or drawing tablets to trace images directly. Digital tracing allows for easy adjustments, manipulation, and experimentation with different elements of the reference image. Artists can employ various tools such as layers and opacity adjustments to create their artwork based on the traced image.

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Thanks Amy. Sorry I missed last nights zoom. I just watched it. My daughter Ruby want me me to tell you we have 7 dogs, 1 cat, 3 horses, 3 gineau pigs, 5 chickens, and many sheep and cows. Can’t wait to start the lessons

Amy Curran
Amy Curran
Jul 05, 2023
Replying to

Oh that’s so cute!! I’m so excited there are so many animals owned by students 🤩 we have lots of drawing to do to cover them all 😂🎨🙌

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