Tracing and plagiarism

Some time ago one of my old drawing was a victim of plagiarism. This said work was my own redesign of a video game character in itself, so the matter gets more stranger colours because of this. I wouldn’t cared a bit if the design was taken and used in a new picture, but the only thing that was basically made was that it was retraced with Photoshop, colours and effects taken out and sabre replaced with a sword design. This was blatant rip-off, thus I took matter in my hands and hammered down the other guy until he withdrew his picture.

I dislike plagiarism and tracing personally. I do see their benefits; tracing is the best way to assimilate wanted styles and techniques. Tracing can be used to make counterfeits in order to create fake works of art in order to make some illegal money. Nevertheless, using them as examples of one’s skills is shooting one’s own leg. Internet is filled with tracing guides, especially animation tracing guides, which is completely idiotic task anyway when you can just take a screencap from Blu-Ray source. Even without BD source, who would want lossy fakes? Nowadays most proper illustration programs have a tool for tracing anyway, so tracing a screencap is made even more redundant.

Print a picture you really like, colours and all. Then take a fountain pen, dip it in ink and start tracing every black and dark line you have. You’ll start noticing every little error and slip that the picture has, everything that could have been a little bit better and where the author has let his own pen slip. But Aalto, my image is completely computer generated image and has no black lines or such, tells the reader. Here’s a point; every computer created image has lines. Start tracing them.
If you can’t understand lines in a picture, then you can’t really understand the work. There has been a lot of times when people just ask What’s that and see nothing but lines. Tracing is perhaps the best way to get used with lines as you draw them one by one. People who use their skills just to retrace other people’s pictures are stupid people misusing their time and skills.

Tracing is basically plagiarism. The author usually doesn’t even try to to save his face and declared I just love this and wanted to create the exact same thing. I get it, you love a picture a lot, but if you love it so much and want to make it, create it by yourself. There are numerous artists who basically have traced comic book pages and then heralded as genious, and the original comic artists have been left in the dark. This isn’t just stupid; it’s also wrong.

Redesigning isn’t plagiarism as it has original effort and ideas behind it. Warhol is a good example of an artist who takes what others have made and labels those works with his own name. DeviantArt is filled with these modern day Warhols tracing their favourite screenshots and circlejerkin to the fact how a stain of hair is succesfully replicated in Photoshop, or if you want to actually be an illustrator, in Illustrator.

My pieces of artwork may be derivative, but nowadays it’s nigh impossible to be completely unique, partially because of this mindset. However, being a derivative designer/artist is always better than just a stealing bastard who mimics not only the style in question, but the work itself. Tracing itself does result in an artwork, but this artwork is by all means a fake.

I was actually thinking to post slew of traced works from Deviant here just to make a point. However, I decided against it as I don’t mean to offend anybody. I mean, these people are thieves as it is and they defend their works to the last stand. Posting the artwork of other’s they’ve traced would only give them more presence and would most likely fetch more spam than I’m already getting. Actually, this is one of the rare posts where I showcase my own opinion outside Personal posts, and I’ll allow it for once.

Tracing has very little room to manouver around. At the very core it’s copying an existing product without a proper license or anything. I can understand the reasons behind tracing, but calling them your own, or actually thinking that you’ve done work with it, is complete and utter bullshit.
Thievery is thievery, even when you’ve put all of your blood and time into it.