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honoria in ciberspazio

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Cheating or technique
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Here is a long post. 
Student - What is cheating?
Honoria's reply.

Student question:
Valid technique vs. “cheating”: where’s the line?

There are a number of various techniques or methods for accurately capturing subjects for life drawing, from sight measuring with a pencil (or ruler or thumb), to using a grid, to tracing. For the purposes of this class and then also for the outside or professional world, what techniques are acceptable or encouraged and which are frowned upon or considered outright cheating? Can a drawing be considered more or less valid depending on the methods used to create it?

For example, I assume that tracing a photograph under your paper would be considered a cheat. However, I have read about how (renowned fantasy art painter) Boris Vallejo will photograph his model, and then trace the photo and transfer the line drawing to the canvas it to get the proportions and pose right. (Vallejo & Bell p 23)

There’s also the method of holding a clear plastic frame with a grid on it in front of the model, roughly tracing the figure’s outline and features on it and then starting a drawing from that grid. This a step or two away from directly tracing, but is it that considered valid?

I have been getting good results with measuring things with a clear ruler and transferring those measurements (with a little math for scaling) to the paper. Is there a situation where this is not acceptable?

I think that ultimately we would like to be able to draw accurately by just looking (or imagining) and drawing without any crutches. But in the meantime, I was just wondering about your thoughts or philosophy on this subject, in and out of the classroom, and how it is viewed generally in the art community.


Source: “Boris Vallejo & Julie Bell Fantasy Workshop: A Practical Guide” by, Nigel Suckling, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2003

Honoria's reply 29 May 08 
D brings up some important issues about techniques, such as tracing, and asks where to draw the line for cheating in this class.

If you digitally copy or photocopy someone else's drawing and hand it in as your own, that is cheating. Direct copying and claiming authorship is called plagiarism and you can be expelled for it.

We draw copies of the anatomy to force you to look inside the body to learn what the forms are on the outside. These copies are to be done freehand but since they are copies of copies it's hard to tell if a student traces them. I suspect some students do trace them. But even if a student gets the proportions right by tracing there remains learning the use of line quality, values, and shading to create mass and depth.

This is an adult class. If a student wants to trace there is nothing I can do about it, and in some instances, as you mention, you can learn from tracing. If you just trace the outlines you will get an accurate cut out looking figure. If you follow the shading on the tracing paper you will learn more. I think you can learn the flow of the body by tracing that you can then apply to drawing. But for this class the tracing technique is not acceptable because we do the 4-step method of building out from the stick figure, geometric figure, the values, then the rendering. This stick, geo, value process goes from the inside out. Tracing usually concentrates on the outer lines and strong contours. In the more complex drawings tracing can be detected but not verified.

Please don't trace for this class. It makes for an ethical mess for students writing comments based on the belief in a freehand drawing.

You can learn more from copying an old master than by tracing a photo so if you need to trace, I strongly suggest to trace an old master drawing. But don't turn it in. Post it in the Student Lounge.

What do you want for your personal goal?

Here are the key questions:
-- Do you want to learn how to draw?
-- Or do you want to learn how to trace and try to fool the teacher?

Drawing includes measuring, breaking down the form into parts such as contours, anatomy, shading, gesture, composition, line, shape, space, depth, etc.

Cheating is anything in which you cheat yourself out of learning. If you love to trace with 2B pencils and never go outside your comfort zone you will not learn much. You will cheat yourself. I may or may not be able to tell unless it just becomes too consistent that it's obvious. I will notice more in the life drawing than in the anatomy studies that are already copies of copies of body parts. But I've been drawing from life for decades and life drawing is flawed and messy and interesting. Tracing is too neat, outliney and much less interesting.

Drawing is expressive. I hope students will be more excited about the process than worried that the actual end product is photorealistic.
It's pretty obvious when students are copying from photos compared to drawing from live models. A traced drawing is even stiffer looking than drawings from photos. So, the main thing is to learn to draw. If your goal is to do photorealism then your source will be photos. If your goal is to be able to have confidence to draw people in any situation to use in storyboards, ideation meetings, graphic recording, etc. then you must push yourself to use the tools and techniques of traditional artists. Those tools and techniques will give you freedom to record and to express the human form for a variety of purposes in your chosen design profession.

You, as an adult learner, must draw your own line between technique and cheating. In this class you can really learn a lot fast by using your eyes, the measuring techniques including a portable grid, and a variety of drawing supplies.

The cheating line that is set in stone is turning in the work of another student or another artist and claiming it as your own. That is plagiarism and will not be tolerated.

Those are my thoughts on cheating. What do you think?


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