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Is Tracing Cheating? – You’re not a Real Animator!

Is Tracing Cheating as an Artist?
In this video I answer a question put to me by a member of the AMB Animation Academy Live Stream Library. He was concerned about tracing and copying artwork being frowned upon. He wanted to know is tracing cheating? and what I thought about rotoscope animation and copying.

There are many communities in the art and animation world and it is important to establish what kind of artist or animator you would like to be first and then seek out the advice and opinions of artists that reside in that particular community. Art has two worlds that of the professional and that of the amateur. As a member of the professional community I can only offer an opinion based on those standards. My professional opinion regarding tracing and rotoscoping is that it is in no way cheating.

Many of the animation principles exploited today were developed by the master animators from the Walt Disney Studios and a short study of the history of animation will reveal to you that they studied from life and also used live action reference that was printed onto stats and traced for some of their films. They learned and developed through this process and even when they got to a stage where they could animate without the reference they would still utilise it because they wanted to expand upon their own abilities and push beyond the live action too.

Rotoscoping also exists in the CGI scene where it was once called Motion Capture and as the big budget block busters have become more dependent on it the actors have renamed it performance capture to try to stay valid in the expanding era of technology.

When I trained under a former Disney and Bluth Lead animator he gave me access to a library of photocopied frames from many classic animated films and encouraged me to trace over them and read his animation notes on certain things. This experience was a real eye opener to me and taught me so much about animation that I simply could never have known without doing it. I also have developed Animation study packs for people who wish to learn from me to trace and study in this manner because I know the benefit that they will gain from it will be far greater than reading a book or watching a tutorial. It’s the most interactive and mind absorbing way of learning to animate.

Tracing like all things done well must be done with a purpose – to simply trace something as we did back in preschool to colour it is indeed a pointless exercise for a serious artist. However we are not 5 years old any more and if you are considering art as a career you certainly won’t have that mentality.

Your time is very valuable and is better spent developing and learning instead of debating and justifying your actions to people in a community. Pick your peer group and spend your time wisely – every minute spent worrying about trivial perceptions is a minute that could have been spent drawing and growing.

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