Mindful Tracing


Ned slightly annoyed with my latest tracing project, Song of the Sea poster

Not stealing. I’m not stealing. This is not cheating. I reminded myself, over and over and over.

Honestly. I felt a little dirty trying out tracing as a helpful method to learn different art style techniques. Goodness, I even tried to hide it from Bryan. I didn’t want him to think I stole the artwork or had plans to steal it. I didn’t want him thinking less of me. But also, if he didn’t see me tracing, I didn’t want him to expect that I could freehand with that kind of talent either.

It was a painful start.

I have since changed my mind. It’s about three days into the practice, and I’m beginning to understand the mindful part of mindful tracing. I’ve heard some professional artists say they need to look at a subject before painting or drawing or whittling. This isn’t true for everyone, hello fantasy genre. One of my favorite watercolorists, Lyla Clayre, is known for lugging around her chunky easel through uptown, French Quarter, and Mid City, New Orleans to paint the unique landscapes and architecture of the city up front and personal.

begin my tracing in photoshop with the full image, Song of the Sea

I know, I know. That isn’t the same thing as tracing, but it’s ... similar. Ish.

With mindful tracing, I’m actively studying the technique, the form, the stroke. I would never ever ever trace a drawing and try to deceive you into believing it is my own work. N-E-V-E-R. And if I do, well, then you know it isn’t truly me but a doppelganger trying to take over the world. You’ve been warned.

So what is mindful tracing?

Sounds like a meditative art, doesn’t it? I suppose it could be. Hmm that’s an idea ... anyway, mindful tracing introduces beginners to the purpose and intention of a particular art style. For example, I’ve chosen to imitate styles like the nature infused characteristics of Ira Sluyterman of Iraville, or slightly more notorious, the whimsical, dreamy artistic approach of Tomm Moore, Cartoon Saloon.

Second step, adding new layers and turning opacity of original image to 40 percent, tracing seals and selki

Things Mindful Tracing taught me:

I’m working on tracing poster art from Song of the Sea, one of Tomm Moore’s.

Working through this piece of art, day three with a new layer of blues and grays to add shading to this mindful tracing practice

As I’m tracing, I’m paying close attention to the form of the lines. How does he create circles? Where does the start begin and the end finish? Does he begin with the background or the subject of the piece? Ask questions as I trace the lines. I found all these answers through tracing his fabulous work.

Just like learning to write the alphabet as a child, I traced over the shapes until I could write the letter a on my own. My a mirrored the same font as the instructional book, but eventually I formed my own, hurried, illegible font.

Mindful tracing is a bit like that. I’m tracing the work of my superiors and, eventually as I continue to practice (like a lot), I’ll have formed my own integrated style. That’s the idea anyway. It’s a new practice, so I’ll keep you posted in a month or two.

I’m using Photoshop layers to help with tracing and opacity levels, but I think next time, I might just use Illustrator to help with the shapes. Even tracing circles takes some skill ha. I’ve realized just how ridiculously easy it is to knock off someone else’s hard earned work and art--y’all, it’s far too easy. How do we help artists from falling victim to forgery and protect authenticity?

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for joining me as I navigate the art of storytelling in this little series, Learning in Public. And if you are new here and curious as to how Learning in Public all began, here is the first of many posts. Welcome!

So glad you’re here.

Wishing you gratitude and joy this Thanksgiving season,