Friday Fancies XIV

Today’s topic:  Tracing — it’s a good thing.

Maybe it is just me and the style of art teaching I had growing up, but I have understood for years that tracing a picture was “cheating.”  It wasn’t YOUR art and it wasn’t original to copy someone else.

In Mona Brookes’ book Drawing With Children, she suggests that children draw in pen in the beginning.  There are some good reasons for doing this, and I will do some art lessons with the children in pen later.  However, I always hated drawing in pen.  I found it frustrating to spend 45 minutes on a picture only to have a stray line mar its’ perfection.  Brookes has some good ideas for dealing with these “mistakes.”  One of which is to trace your own drawing, tracing the lines you like and leaving out the lines you would have erased if you had been drawing in pencil.

She comments that it is a perfectly acceptable thing to do — to trace one’s OWN drawing.  Which implies to me that it is NOT acceptable to trace a drawing not your own.

I think I disagree with that.* 

I got to thinking about scrapbooking and all the ready-made supplies that help that process along, so I can create scrapbook works of art.  This is perfectly acceptable by most people’s standards, and yet I am using letter stickers I did not create and flower stickers that did not originate in my own head to create an “original” scrapbook page that I could enter into contests.

I thought about the cricut, that machine that lets me just push a button and it cuts out a bird.  Within seconds, I have a lovely paper bird that I can use to make an handmade and “original” card.  Yet, the source of that bird did not spring from my own imagination. 

Right now, I am using someone else’s pattern to sew an apron.  Though I am making a few changes, the original idea for this apron is not mine.  It belongs to someone else.

I thought about how I have my children trace their letters.  It helps them learn how to make a straight line or a curved line.  They can look at the pre-printed letter and see where they have veered off, where they need to improve.  Eventually, they get proficient enough at the tracing that they can move confidently to writing their own “original” letters.

So with a little trepidation that I may be creating a crutch that would cripple my hesitant, though budding artist, I showed Rachel how to trace.  I taped a simple line drawing to the window and taped a blank sheet on top of that.  I took a pencil and showed her how to trace a line, gave her the pencil and let her go.

Within days, she turned out 3 pages, 10 pages, 23 pages of drawings.  And every one BEGAN as a tracing that she added to and developed into what I would call “original” works of art.

I have no idea whether tracing would work this way for every child.  But for this child, it has certainly built her confidence and encouraged her to attempt more difficult drawings.