Randall Sly: Observe, Trace and Study.


One of the ways I like to study, is by printing out a picture I like. I then take the time and trace over it.  Now at first this might sound like a big waste of time but it isn't.  Sometimes the mind seems to trick us into thinking a certain line or shape is different than exactly what you see in front of you. We sometimes see what we want to. So with having the added sense of feeling, of going over the same lines that are there, you are able to see and feel the shape, length, direction, thickness, rhythm of each line. You will start to feel the design. You are adding another sense while studying.  It's kind of like what a blind person would do when they touch things. They are using the sense of touch to see. Well when I trace over a picture, I get that added help of seeing by feeling the drawing as well. My drawing skills grew when I started doing this. So don't be embarrassed to trace over things, you will learn a lot.

The next thing I do is make sure I am studying good art.  There is a phrase that says "Garbage In Garbage Out".
Meaning... if  you are looking, studying or around bad stuff (in this case art) you will absorb it naturally, and then when you put pencil to paper that is what will come out.  You can only produce what you know.  So if you would like to be a great artist study great art work, be surrounded by it. Study just the good stuff.

One more thing... Glen Keane once said "if you are drawing a blank, or are having a hard time drawing a certain thing, then it is because you have not studied it enough". You can only draw what you know. Sadly there is no magical dust (believe me I have tried searching for the stuff) that will make you a better artist. The fruit of great art comes from the roots of studying, observation, and hard work.

So for people like me that have a hard time drawing hands this is the type of (Great) artwork I would printout, trace, study, and observe. 



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19 comments:

AMBUJ JOSHI said...

Really helpful. Thanks a lot for posting this just what I needed to know.

rad sechrist said...

I do this all the time. I trace something at least once a day, but I usually try to figure out the rhythm, construction, gesture, etc and not just memorize where the lines go. It's really really helpful, good post Randall.

Andy J. Latham said...

Great tip Randall....but I have a question. How do you determine what is good tracing material. I recently printed off a page of hands because I thought they were great, but I then noticed that the artist had commented on them saying they are really bad. They look great to me which makes me concerned about being able to determine what is good and what is not.

Sam Nielson said...

Nice post, and unfortunately something I don't ever do. It's a good reminder for me to start though, so thanks!
Also, you should increase the number of posts that show up on the front page---I think there were three other posts today, but my gargantuan post obliterated them all. (Sorry.)

Sam Nielson said...

Whoops, nevermind. Now the rest are showing up for me.

The Ivanator said...

Thanks for the post! I'm starting doing this lately, and hopefully it'll come to a fruition in the future; hopefully sooner.

How do you decide which good to art to trace and observe?

rad sechrist said...

How do you tell who is good?

The more you study, the more you will be able to tell. Just study whatever you think is good at first.

Omar said...

Great tip!

Kevin Mcleod said...

Thanks for taking the time to make these hand sheets up for us.

Jacob said...

Does this work with tracing photo references as well? I know Rad talked about drawing bat girl and using that photo as a ref but I can't remember if he traced it.
I'm just wondering if tracing should be limited to previously done drawings?

Robin Cain said...

THanks for posting!!! I do trace what I like, but haven't taken time to really work on hands (which I really need to work on!!!). It works really well with hand lettering too! Print out a font and trace...

Thanks again!

nick said...

Good tips, I always felt guilty learning like this as a kid thinking it would give me bad habits, but now some 20 years later i have been doing it again for things that still elude me, such as feet! If only you were focusing on feet here, I'd be drowning in reference. Thanks for the tips!

Anne Berry said...

I cannot thank you enough for this! I knew that tracing was a great way to study but I had no idea it reached you through like muscle memory. Like driving a car! And this compilation of hands to study from is fantastic!!!

Laís said...

This blog is amazing.

And just sharing: I do that tracing exercise at the computer (using artist and photo reference) - it's pretty awesome!

Liesl said...

I'm so glad you said this. Too many people act as though tracing is the Great Sin in drawing, but I've discovered that when I trace photos of people's faces, it's a lot easier to see where I could put the nose and eyes and mouth in comparison to the rest of the face, how big it should (or could) be, what parts I could exaggerate, etc.

Genevieve Kote said...

Wow what great references! I will study these, then search some good feet drawing :)

idreamofpossibility said...

THANK-YOU! This is so incredibly helpful.

384Sprites said...

This is great. I was recommended to do this, and I've never heard of such a thing. Then I found this posting that explained why. Thanks!

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