Is It Cheating?

I went to college for art. Mainly because I grew up reading comic books and I always loved the strong linear elements of the medium.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a degree in drawing, so I chose the next best thing: painting.

The cool thing about painting is that the better you are at drawing, the easier time you have with your painting. It’s a lot easier to get something you like, if you can draw a solid likeness directly on the canvas.

To that end I took lots of drawing classes.

Drawing 101. Advanced drawing. Life drawing.

You’d rarely catch me without a sketchbook outside arm’s reach.

Even so, I loved using whatever tools I could use to get an image out of my head & onto the canvas.

Opaque projectors. Carbon paper. *gasp* TRACING.

And there lies the rub.

Is it cheating?

You can hear that in the heart of “innocent” questions like: “How did you do that? Did you do that freehand? How long did it take you to do that?”

The unspoken (or sometimes spoken) bias is: only freehand is worthy. If you are using any kind of tool (god forbid you have a ruler to help with straight lines), then it’s not “real” art.

To that I say, I don’t care.

Professionals care about getting work done. Full stop.

They’re not concerned with “is this real or not.”

If they were, then they’d be physicists. But drawings aren’t real; no matter how well you draw them by hand. It’s always a symbol of reality. So, it can’t be ‘more real’ than any other symbol.

It also means it can’t be more fake, either.

So who cares?

Use the tool. Don’t. I don’t care.

*with a footnote…

While tools help you get the job done, it is good to cultivate the barebones skill of drawing directly from your imagination & life. If you become entirely dependent on a particular tool to get *anything* done, then I’d say that is a bigger problem than using a tool to get something done quickly.

And if you’re still on the fence about ‘real art doesn’t use tracing’ or you’re still firmly in the ‘tracing is cheating’ camp, then I have this idea for you:

It’s only cheating if art is a competition.

And that can be the thief of creativity, innovation, and self development. Just like comparison is the thief of joy; competing with others in terms of your own self expression is a surefire way to destroy anything you enjoyed about art in the first place.

And I’ll leave you with this.

Does any of this sound familiar from the world of AI art, digital art, or any of the other new frontiers of creativity? Leave it alone and build whatever you want however you can get it done.

You have my permission to not care about anyone’s permission.

Best thoughts,
~Jonathan

PS: The painting I included at the top of this is a digital painting I did on an iPad Pro using ProCreate; this is my preferred method to paint nowadays as I can do it while I’m on the road without needing to bring along a whole trunk full of brushes and paints. Technology is fantastic!

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