So, there's a lot of drama not only on DeviantArt, Tumblr or other art-websites, but in the Internet and the world at all. Tracing. I can imagine every artist shiver and check on their drawings and paintings every time they hear this word, just to make sure no one 'stole' their artwork.
Now the reason I write 'stole' in quotes is that tracing and stealing are different things. Stealing is taking your artwork, positioning it as your own and gaining money for that. Tracing is using a tracing paper, copying something with their own touches. Like a song remix that has the same melody, same words, same rhythm, but has something different nevertheless. Calling tracing stealing can be used as an exaggeration for strengthening your emotion in thy statement (alike to 'I died when I saw that beauty!'
- no, you didn't, but we get the point), but you must understand it's not the same thing.
Now, before we start, I want to remind you it is called 'Unpopular Opinion' series for two reasons. First of all: it might be unpopular, which means, it might be far from what you are used to hear, and might be the opposite of what you, yourself, think. Secondly: it is an opinion, which means it is the view of one single man, and not the universal truth. If you can not get over one or both these facts, please, stop reading now.
I do not want to get to the point too quickly, since what's the point in writing an entry if you can just write 'I approve' or 'I disapprove'?
First of all, I do want you to remember how you started drawing. I know it is not an easy question, since you must have started when you were very, very young, and you have no memory left of that time. However, look through your old works if you have them. I'm sure you'll find some Sonic drawings, Sailor Moon drawings, the Beauty and the Best, Tarzan or that little Pole mole I always liked when I was a kid. All very different, no style, just copying what you saw and liked. I guess, you're getting ahead of me and already see my point.
At some time of out lives we all copied works we liked. I, for one, copied drawings from my English grammar books, where it had an anthro cat and anthro dog; also I drew dragons, copying styles from 'The Flight of Dragons', copied the predator from illustrations in the book by 1987 film, Conan from animated TV series, and that's all I can remember for the moment. It was a short period that didn't last long, but
only because (and I say 'only' since I don't see any other good reason for it) I had great teachers. Amazing artists, who I respected even as a kid, and they told me that you should never trace, you should do everything on your own. Tracing is bad. Did I listen to them? Of course I did. I am rebellious, and always was, however, I can see reason, especially when it comes from someone I truly respect.
Now another question: did tracing do me any good? Why, yes it did.
Will it help you? Yes, it will.
Short explanation to this: you can not learn how to run if you don't know how to walk.
There's a phraseme in my native language that means 'become a skilled hand at something
', but the literal translating is more accurate to this situation, which would be 'to beat your hand up
'. Means to make something so often and so honestly that your hand was traumatized when you learn.
The thing is, you can not learn how to draw when you don't know how to hold a pencil. For that you can either go to art school, or make a log self-taught way, or copy and trace other works. It's a cheating thing to do, but you'll actually 'beat your hand up' with it, and learn in time, how pencils work, how lines work, etc. There's nothing to be proud of when you trace, but nothing to be ashamed of as well. For me, copying an tracing is a natural thing to do when you learn how to draw. In time, the style changes and adjusts itself, you learn the basic anatomy, you choose what's best for you, and the best example is my favourite
kick your own ass draw this again meme
Now I know there are such cool artists out there, but they were not born drawing chef-d'oeuvres. It is OK to learn and fail, and it is OK to trace their work to learn how to make it, if you ask me. It is not OK to submit it. See traced works as your working table. Imagine you're making a website or a computer game, and you invite your commissionaire or producer to show the results and instead you show your table, covered in dust, bus tickets and pizza boxes, and expect your work to be accepted based on this mess. That is what submitting traced things.
Now, there is another thing called referencing. Some people pretend they don't know a difference.
Not so long ago Shattered-Earth
got a Daily Deviation
with their amazing tutorial about referencing, so there's no actual reason for me to tell about it, since my point of view is pretty much the same as Shattered-Earth
The basic thing about referencing is, so to say, looking how a thing works and trying to do that on your own.
Now for example, your character has short wavy hair, but you don't know how to draw it. You know Suzie on DA who has an amazing character with long wavy hair. You go to Suzie and ask her 'Can I take a reference from this drawing for my char's hair?' and wait. If she says yes, then download her drawing. Cut it so you can see only hair. Examine the lines of hair waves. Looks where it is more puffy, where the lines curve and how they curve, how the lines go. Look at Suzie's drawn hair and try make short wavy hair, styled as hers, but for your character, your shot and angle, needed length and density, etc.
That is a very OK thing to do, and it's a very OK thing to upload your work. And don't forget to credit Suzie in your artist's comments! It doesn't make you less skilled or talented, since you have already taken the reference, but it shows you respect Suzie's work, you are not ashamed that you are learning, and you accept the fact 'Yes, I have taken the reference, because I do not know how to draw hair, but I will learn in time
In time, again, you will work out how to make your own wavy hair, you won't need the reference from Suzie or any other artist, and believe me, it will be very different from Suzie's. You will, well, beat your hand up on this. You will learn.
So, remember, tracing is OK to do, but not OK to upload anywhere. It will let you feel more comfortable holding a pencil, a pen or a brush, but tracing is no more then a mess and a dump for art.
Referencing on the other hand, is something many artists use (in fact, when artists draw from nature, from model, etc., they are, roughly speaking, taking references), and it's OK to use them and it's OK to upload works based on them. But do not forget to mention where did you take the reference, as precise as you can. Though you might think it will defame you, it actually gives you extra credit.