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The Controversial Path of Tracing in Learning to Draw

You've confided in your parents about your dreams of becoming an artist, and their response is always the same: "Well, you better get practicing." Fueled by determination, you spend endless hours scrolling through social media, admiring the work of talented artists, and attempting to recreate their masterpieces. But let's be honest – those speed tutorial videos might as well be in another language, and your attempts often end in frustration. Is there a secret to mastering the craft of drawing and painting, and can tracing be a part of that journey? In this blog post, we'll dive into the controversial world of tracing as a learning tool, share stories of famous artists who embraced it, and explore the muscle memory that can turn anyone into an artist.


A drawing of Moana from Disney Movie Moana
Learning to draw with Samantha Badrock

Nobody is born an artist; it's all about developing skills. Think about a friend who aspired to be a netball goalie. They didn't become a pro by natural talent alone but through sheer dedication and muscle memory. The same principle applies to drawing.


Imagine being able to draw a perfect circle every time without it looking wonky. Muscle memory makes it possible. The more you practice, the more your muscles learn how to replicate shapes effortlessly. I started every lesson with a circle, and now I can draw anything because of the muscle memory I've built.


But how do you develop the right kind of muscle memory for drawing complex subjects? This is where tracing comes into play. Tracing allows you to understand how drawing different shapes feels in your hands. It helps you discover the nuances of wrist positioning and the fluid motion of drawing on the page.


My own journey with tracing began unconventionally – using a shower window as a makeshift lightbox. I taped up pages to see through to the original picture. When that wasn't sufficient, I turned to projectors which could onlyl be used at night. I had many late night session learning to draw with a projector. Thankfully, I stumbled upon a LED light pad that revolutionized my learning experience. After practicing a combination of freehand drawing and tracing for a couple of years, I found that I could now draw without any aids. My hands and mind worked in harmony, allowing me to reproduce anything I saw.


Tracing isn't just about muscle memory; it's a valuable tool for understanding the fundamental shapes that make up any image. Every photo, illustration, or artwork is composed of basic shapes, and using a LED light pad can help you dissect these shapes within a picture. In my next blog post, I'll delve deeper into how you can use basic shapes to create a solid foundation for your drawings.


In the world of art, controversy often surrounds tracing as a learning technique. However, as we've explored in this blog post, tracing can be a powerful tool for developing muscle memory, understanding shapes, and ultimately mastering the art of drawing. Remember, every artist's journey is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. So, embrace the controversy, explore different methods, and don't let anyone discourage you from pursuing your artistic dreams. In the end, the world is your canvas, and with determination and practice, you can turn your artistic aspirations into a reality. Stay tuned for more tips and techniques to elevate your drawing skills in our upcoming blogs!

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