Should I consider this form of tracing "cheating"?

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  11 November 2013
Should I consider this form of tracing "cheating"?

Just to be clear, this question is about paper and pencil, not Photoshop.

I tend to separate the drawing of a character into two phases: pose first, details second. I'll spend a while toiling over the pose to get everything exact, from the sense of movement to the perspective to the proportions and all that. When it's done, I have what looks like a mannequin—an empty figure outline, devoid of detail, but in the exact pose I want.

I then add line weight, texture detail, and the rest. But because I've spent so long on my pose, I often trace over my own drawing to "duplicate" all the pose work I did. That way, if I end up with details that I dislike, I can revert back the pose by re-sketching it rather than starting over. If nothing else, it's just a good psychological trick; I feel freer and less risk-averse because I know my original pose is safe.

But should I aspire to not needing to do that? I always imagine more experienced artists just diving right into detail once the pose is done without copying it safely first, which makes me wonder if this is just a quirk of my personal process, or a crutch that's impeding my further growth as a pencil artist?

Really this is more a philosophical question than a practical one; I'd mostly like to hear from experienced artists that can tell whether this is a reasonable way for a professional to work or a kind of rookie training wheels that I should try to outgrow.

  11 November 2013
That's not how drawing works for experienced artists. I think your hangup about it is just due to lack of exposure/experience to how art is done in general. If you spend enough time around "real" artists--people who draw and paint at a high level professionally, you'll quickly see that what you have is a misconception.

What experienced artists do is this:

They have a pose in mind and they do quick gestures to get the overall flow/visual movement/body language down--something that "feels" like what they want to convey. Then, once that general impression/gesture is done, the artist would flesh it out structurally, either by materializing the figure with simple geometric shapes as body parts, or simply draw the figure, or first do one then the other. Some even build the structure with very simplified skeleton/muscles. This is to make sure that the figure is anatomically and structurally sound and the proportions are correct. After that, the artists would put clothes on the figure, and then the sketch is pretty much done. If the sketch needs to be turned into a clean drawing, that comes next, and the artist would more or less draw on top of the sketch--sort of like "inking" it the way comic book inkers ink on top of the pencil drawing. It's a bit like tracing but the artist is also making corrections and adding/altering details as he goes. If no clean drawing is needed, such as for a painting, then the paint can begin after a clearly readable sketch is done.

So no, when it's your own work, you're not tracing/cheating. If that was the case, all artists are cheaters, as we often need to do clean drawings on top of our sketches, or animators need to use the light box, or painters project their drawings onto the canvas, etc.
  11 November 2013
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