Today’s photo is of a coloured pencil drawing I did of shadows on a piece of bark, from Lake St. Clair, Tasmania.
In all my years at Art School in Hobart, I can’t remember any reference to tracing in our drawing studies. The thought of tracing and art didn’t come together for me then, and they still don’t today.
Making art is about your personal interpretation of an idea, object, image or message. Tracing is reproducing (imitating) something already there. You can’t show your style when tracing and surely art is about personal style. It’s your style that differs you from all other artists. Your way of seeing the world is unique to you and you should strive to be as individual as you can.
Sure, traced artwork looks great, especially if it’s accurate, but is this merely imitation. Is imitation really art? Is this what illustration is all about? Is it craft? People love accuracy and detail, but how original is the idea? I have no problem with artists tracing drawings they have already made to another surface. The hard work has been done, why do it all over again? Michelangelo traced his drawings onto the Sistine Chapel ceiling, for a good reason and he did a great job too!
I often use a grid when blocking out my work. A grid is not tracing, it’s an accurate way of scaling up (or down) your work. This method is very handy when the right proportion is required. I set up objects and photograph them, manipulate them on my computer and print them, usually to A4 size, then grid them up. I choose my own colour schemes and surfaces to work on. I also draw from life and from my imagination.
From what I’ve seen on the Internet from across the world as far as coloured pencil art is concerned, is the popularity of photo-realism. Why is this so? Why are so many, fixated on clinical accuracy? When the coloured pencil “look” is “lost” and it resembles flat paint, what is this saying? Is coloured pencil a poor medium to work with? Of course it’s not! Shouldn’t coloured pencil look like coloured pencil? Is there an inferiority complex here? I hope not. We do not need to “compete” against other art mediums.
For those requiring an income from their art, market forces often dictate what they create. This is sad as it often sees artists paint what is popular, not what they would really like to paint.
As an art judge, what do you do when you think a work has been traced? I must admit, I get concerned when I see every part of every wave in a seascape fitting together like a jigsaw. It’s perfect, too perfect.
There are no doubt many artists who will strongly disagree with my views on tracing, who see it as a justified way of creating their art and I accept that. I suppose I am more interested in art that grabs my attention not for its realism, but for its style and personal way of expression. What do you think?