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Lesson Plans

re: tracing....another opinion

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Larry Seiler (
Sat, 18 Dec 1999 08:50:27 -0600

>And finally, articles in AMERICAN ARTIST that even
>show a watercolorist projecting photos onto large
>sheets of paper and then tracing the images.
>My point, I have learned to respect and appreciate the
>wide diversity that exists in art making and concluded
>" one size does not fit all".
>Dennis Morris

I have some mixed feelings about it. I guess if one sees it as a
commercial venture, or illustration, etc., its okay. It has its place, and
it is done. Since we teach art in its full spectrum- fine and commercial,
why not share technical knowledge as it is used? For young special needs
people...of course.

I have known some pretty big names in the wildlife art print industry, whom
are honored equally with other big knowns at some very prestigious shows,
and know that they cast slides up on a gessoed board to not only trace the
patterns of water, but will mix paint and paint it in as well. People
marvel over how realistic it is. Well...duh!

I have tried it myself as a means to understand water...and it was a good
learning exercise, but simply could not feel worthy of being admonished
such a good painter to resort to such tactics for pieces geared to
galleries and print. It was frustrating knowing a few of these individuals
so duped everyone, and were getting so highly rewarded for it; rewarded to
the point of being assessed better painters than others.

Yes...I know the devices Leonardo and earlier masters used...but, it didn't
quite go the full route as that which I explained above. So...while not
ruling it out, I think where the artist knows he is hiding a great secret
and willing yet to receive such lavishment of praise we ought not remove it
being a controversial consideration for our students to discuss. It comes
down to asking ourselves if the final image is the highest priority, or the
element of assessment of ingenuisness/talent the artist is given following
a work. If the work is commercial, then indeed the work is highest. If
geared to be perceived as fine art...the work and artist are a reflection
of each other.

Let's not forget that many of the commissioned works of the Renaissance and
Baroque period were commercial enterprizes, and a certain secrecy held in
the methods of apprenticeship/academy. For example, Raphael so trained his
students to his methods that he eventually painted only the faces in...his
students the rest, yet it is his signature on the paintings.

When pigments were more readily available to any filled with enthusiasm to
paint, such emphasis to fulfill commissioned assignments fell away as with
a need for such practices. So...the flip side to this is, as centuries go
by...even commercial works have become "masters". Though perhaps this may
be relegated more to the invention of techniques. Those tracing today are
hardly inventing anything new.

Larry Seiler
artist's site-
WetCanvas Artists page- (shorter and quicker loading)

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