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WARNING: Long Journal!

The recent art theft I've experienced as well as having seen several other people's opinions on what exactly is wrong or "illegal" as far as artwork goes, made me think some on what I felt and believed and I wanted to share my thoughts.

This is predominantly concerning things such as tracing, copying or eyeballing art, and referencing artwork, either heavily or lightly.

~Light Referencing~
Rain by StangWolf

Firstly, I think all artists should realizing that looking at other people's artwork and seeing how they draw is a great way to learn. Not to copy their work, but just to see how they draw.
I've made mental note as I look around at other artists on how they do things from eyes, hair and even folds in clothing. More often than not I am not sitting there looking at their art as I draw, unless I am having a hard time getting something down such as recently on "Rain" where I wanted to really make Nathan's pants believable.

I did pull up some art from others to look over and take note on how they did the folds in pants, especially baggie pants on male characters, however I simply took something of a mental note on how the folds fell. I was not in any way copying their work or even eyeballing it and say putting the pants they drew on my character. No, I let my own developed style shape the folds in his pants, but got the general idea and the visual example on how folds worked by viewing other art.

That is what I call extremely light referencing.

~Moderate Referencing~
Wolf Tala Sketches by StangWolf

Another example of referencing is when I sat down recently to try and get a feel for drawing feral wolves again, since all I've done in the past several years is anthro characters, which as most of you know, uses predominantly human anatomy not a whole lot of wolf anatomy. So I pulled up some Google images of wolves, all in different poses and positions, and then just used those to sketch up little thumbnail sketches. Originally I was just going to use them as examples of wolf anatomy, but after drawing a few poses on my own decided to just try and replicate the poses from the photos with the little Tala rough sketches. Referencing those photos, even to make my tiny little thumbnail sketches, was immensely helpful.
To me this would be an example of just simple referencing, or maybe moderate referencing.

If you use a photo to reference a drawing you're working on, it is always good to state so, and if you wish to reference someone's artwork, ALWAYS ask the artist for permission first. If they say "No." then please respect their wishes, even if you think they're being stuck up or uptight or rude, it is their art. NEVER assume that you can just help yourself to someone's art to reference, even if it is just a pose or something, always ask first.

~Heavy Referencing~
Scar Movie Shot by StangWolf

With the above drawing of Scar, I did heavily reference the movie screenshot. I did not trace, but I was aiming to replicate Scar as he was seen in that screenshot. This is what I also call "eyeballing" where you're, again, not tracing, but doing your best to copy each line the way your eye sees it.

I do NOT suggest doing this with another artist's work, UNLESS you have asked and they do not mind. If you do post any artwork that has been heavily referenced/eyeballed then do by all means give credit to the original artist and link back to the work of theirs you used. If the artists says "No." once again, please respect their wishes. If you ignore their request, or don't ask, then this type of referencing (and perhaps even moderate referencing) can get you in serious trouble and likely the removal of the art in question at the very very least. Typically other people don't take kindly to this and you can get yourself suspended or potentially even banned by doing so.

However, that being said, I do believe referencing this way can be extremely helpful in creating a good eye to hand ability that comes in so very handy when drawing still life works or even if you just want to do as I did and have fun trying to see how closely you can replicate your favorite animated character or characters. I believe it gives you a good feel for drawing characters and such as well.


Now, tracing, that word that drives some artists absolutely bonkers in a fit of rage. I can understand why, but at the same time, I kind of disagree with the rabid anger I see some artists pitch when someone mentions tracing.

So the good part of tracing, in my opinion, is that it can be a very good tool when you are trying to get a physical feel on how the hand operates with your pencil when drawing certain lines. I used to trace stuff when I was a kid all the time, I could draw on my own, but there was some sort of fun in tracing, and I do believe it helped my ability on a physical level.

That being said, if you want to try your hand tracing another artist's work, then once again, please ask. Be aware a lot of artists will probably say no, however, if you do find one who does not care, do be sure to credit them and their original work if you so choose to post the art up. I'd also state what your intention was in tracing the work.

Also note, that while I do believe this is a good way to get a feel for the motions of drawing, to an extent, that is about all it is good for as far as learning experience goes. I highly suggest that if you want to practice with tracing, realize that it should never be your only way to draw. This is a hindrance and a crutch and you will only ever be able to draw other people's work, and never your own.

Again, if you trace someone's work and do not ask the artist's permission, refuse to state that you did trace the work, or claim it as your own original art you can land yourself in extremely hot water. This is where it crosses the line into illegal territory since you are essentially stealing another person's artwork.

I do not condone this behavior at all. As I said above, ask, and if you get a yes from said artist, then clearly state who the original belongs to and your intentions in the practice, and use it only as a way to learn, never as your only means of drawing. If an artist says no then just let it go and respect their wishes, even if you think the artist is being unreasonable and they still say no even if you say all you wish to do is practice and would give them credit. Some artists simply do not like the activity and that is their right, with their art.

It is a lot more fun to create your own work, and I can say, drawing something without having to worry about keeping on the lines and replicating an image, is MUCH more fun and gives you a sense of freedom.

~Reposting Artwork by another Artist~

As far as I'm concerned this is a big BIG no no. I have seen an artist here or there that doesn't mind if someone reposts their work, but they are an extremely rare breed. Most artists, including myself, do not want their artwork reposted in any other private gallery other than their own.

I've seen arguments thrown at artists by said offenders who claim that they are "Getting the artists extra attention and publicity!" I say if you want to help an artist get extra attention or publicity, post journals and link to their profile or the art of theirs you like, or draw their characters in your own style or something. Don't simply snag some or all of their art and blatantly repost it in your own private gallery and expect them to come by and say "Wow thank you so much! This is very awesome of you!"

What's even worse is blatantly reposting the artists work and claiming it as your own original creation. This is a great way to get yourself banned from art sites and even sites that allow you to post photos and drawings. It is also a great way to blacklist yourself to other artists and is never a good way to earn respect, attention, or praise from people who don't realize the artwork isn't yours, feeling deceived hurts and breeds mistrust. It is also a super great way to make an enemy out of an artist.

When I see people doing this I see them wanting a quick way to earn the attention of others and for some even a way to maybe perhaps become "popular" on an online art site or where ever. It is very disappointing to me. You can also bet I will do my best to get my art removed and if I see another artists work being reposted by someone I will immediately bring it to their attention.

~Selling Art by Others~

When it comes to things such as commissions, your best bet to stay out of hot water is to sell only things created completely by you. I'd say some light referencing is probably alright, if you're trying to get a pose or make a character look more realistic or something, is permissible. However, never use another artists work to create any part of a commission you're working on. This is bad because you are essentially making money off of someone else's work, you are cheating, and can get in big trouble depending on the scale to which you use someone else's work for profit.

~My Art~

If anyone would like to reference some of my art, recolor some of my lineart pieces, or perhaps even if they would like to trace a piece of art that is mine, by all means just ask me. I can tell you right now I will be much more open to these things if you just politely ask me, in fact, more often than not I will probably be very flattered that you would like to use my art to further your own artist ability or even to just have some fun.

I also ask that if you wish to repost a reference, eyeball copy, recolor, or trace of my work, please let me know that you wish to do so, and where you will be placing it and please, please, please do credit my original work with a link back to it. I say this partially because there is that part of me that would like credit for my work, but also so I don't stumble up on your art one day long after I gave you permission and forget that I'd given it to you. Typically, I'm pretty good about realizing who asked me and who hasn't but that's where the links help. When I see someone with a recolor of one of my linearts that states in the description that the original belongs to me I am often pleased to see that my art was liked enough to be used in such a way.
However, again, a great way to get on my bad side real fast, is to trace or eyeball reference my work and certainly by blatantly reposting my work and stating in the description something along the lines of "This is by me." or "This is me." or "This is my art." and especially "This is my art don't copy or steal!" THAT is the epitome of hypocrisy in my eyes and a great way to get me seeing red real fast.

~My Characters~

First, I do realize you cannot copyright a character, you can trademark them (Mickey Mouse), but not copyright them. The artwork that has them in it is copyright to me, but not necessarily the character herself. That being said, it is still wrong and can land you in trouble to steal a character that belongs to me, or another artist for that matter.

Example, bad idea to take Tala and draw her yourself as she has been designed by myself and claim her as your own. Another really bad idea is to simply take a drawing of my own (or someone else's) of Tala and repost it or trace/copy it and claim her and the art as yours.

I can say this is even more disappointing, Tala is a representation of myself in ways, as is Nathan, and even Nashoba to an extent. Those three are very important to me and are more than simply markings on a piece of paper, they are much more in depth characters than that, and I will never appreciate someone taking them and claiming them as their own.

Also, I never want to hear the line "oh but you should smile because they drew you free fanart!" Yeah to an extent perhaps, but I like to be surprised with gifts that way where the artists who has drawn Tala or any of my characters and says in the description that she belongs to me. Thos are okay, it's not okay when the person claims Tala as "My girl" or something like that, yeah free fanart be damned, that's not cool at all. That's not fanart that's simply theft of my creation.

All of that said, yes I do appreciate and absolutely love to see Tala or any of my characters drawn by other people, whether it be commissioned by me or simply gift art, so if you would like to draw her or any of my characters by all means go for it! Just note I'd love to see it so I can save it.

~In Conclusion~

Long story short, if you would like to use my art for any reason in any way, please, just ask me. I might say no, but more often than not I will not mind in the slightest and those I have had ask me in the past I am very appreciative of and am more than likely to allow them to do so again in the future.

If you try and be sneaky and underhanded about it and steal my art to repost or trace an post as your own creation, be warned I will do what it takes to have said art removed, starting with noting you personally, if you ignore me then on to the administration and staff of said site, if they don't do their job then you can bet your ass I will make it public at that point.

Thankfully with the recent thief I have run across, it would seem the furthest I have had to go is to the admins and staff on certain sites. Once it would seem simply noting him was enough to get him to remove my art.

To my watchers: Believe me, I know it can suck to see someone else's art stolen and I've had the urge to "help" by responding to said thieves in the past as well, but if this ever happens to me again, please let me handle it. Part is because I want to be as professional as possible (I don't want to be an artist who's watchers white knight or go rabid on anyone who so much as has a similar character to theirs) and part is because I am very independent and I do prefer to deal with my problems myself. I never want to give a thief some sort of ammo to use against me, so as long as I'm polite, logical and don't have anyone harassing them they should never have anything to use against me ever.

So, I never, ever want to see anyone I know is a watcher of mine harassing another person because they've stolen some of my art. It does suck, it angers and disappoints me and I know people just want to help, but it could very well hurt my case depending on which site it is related too. So please, if this ever happens again let me handle it first.

I promise if it gets to where the thief is ignoring my requests, and in the rare case the admins on a site decide not to do their job, and after I've publically said "Take my art down." to them, if all of that doesn't work, then I may request some help. However, I highly doubt that will ever happen, usually once you get to contacting the site staff it's over.

~Your Art~

If you want to learn to draw or to better your current ability I suggest the best way to do so is again to just take subtle notes of the things you like about other artists work and practice and draw often. I mentioned tracing can be helpful, but it can easily become a crutch, so try to avoid this if possible.

Come up with your own ideas and creations, that is by far the best way to earn attention, respect, and praise and it will be well earned! Never, ever steal another artists work or creation.

I suggest also utilizing things like tutorials other artists create, these are a great tool because they are specifically created to show their own techniques and you never know when you may pick up something new to try with your own art.


Anyway, those are my thoughts, prompted mainly by the recent art theft I've experienced as well as seeing some artists here and there who get all up in arms about things such as referencing or mainly tracing artwork or pictures.

I hope all of that made sense, and I know it's TL;DR again, but I wanted to express my thoughts. I hope some of you find them useful.

I am now going to go work on my own tutorials for ya'll to use or look over if you like and see how exactly I go about creating my own artwork. The reference drawings and tutorials I post in my gallery are always typically on a "help yourself" basis since they were all created to be shared with other artists on an educational basis.

Thanks for reading guys,
Add a Comment:
Charmednight Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Apologies if this is really random but I have a quick question. Recently on an app I’m on called amino someone first accused me of tracing my Steven universe drawings I guess cause they looked close to the scenes they were reference from (she didn’t actual day why she thought they were traced) After that I told her I did not trace anything and it was wrong of her to assume that I did. She apologized for that only to then start lecturing me for “heavily referencing” instead and saying it was bad but I wasn’t even trying to copy exactly what I saw on screen that’s literally just how the drawings came out (well I can see plenty of mistakes but obviously she didnt) in summary is heavily referencing bad like she claims? Like I said that’s not what I was trying to do but I am curious if there is any merit to her comment 
matrix4495 Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2013
As far as im concern, if ur tracing someone elses artwork but u give credit to said artist and u claim its a tracing than its perfectly fine. just my opinion though
LovelyLadyGray Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2011  Professional Artisan Crafter
I completely agree with you on the tracing can be a very handy tool to try to find your own unique Art Style at the beginning. There are so many different types of references which can become such fun to create exciting new original characters. =D Thank you very much for sharing, Stang-chan. Really love all of your artwork. :clap:

Like you I love it when I get fan art of my OCs and get a link to see it. Just ask first, and when you're done with your drawing of the said character give proper credit to the original pic of the artist. People will give you a lot of respect and appreciation.;p
StangWolf Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I'm glad you agree! I just hope most people in general feel similarly, I know there are probably some differences in opinion, but I think most artists are fairly nice if someone simply asks them about any use of their art in the first place. :nod:
LovelyLadyGray Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2011  Professional Artisan Crafter
I'm glad to know we both feel the same way! It's also true to most of the other artists here on DA do feel the same way we do on Art: Referencing, Copying/Tracing (I hardly do these 2 unless I'm working on a children's book) and Eyeballing makes the finished artwork more unique to me. I know there's a big difference in all opinions, yet all of the artists I've met and made friends with on DA are very nice people if another person just politely asks them if they can use the poses of their OCs for a reference in the first place and sends them the link afterwards. :nod:

I've been drawing for most of my life (since Pre-school) so a lot of artists know the only way to get better at drawing, inking or coloring is to just practice, Practice and PRACTICE. One of the artists made a copy of my Japanese ink painting of bamboo with a big gray cat head digitally painted into it = very poor idea =(. If you like the painting or pic at least TRY your best to just do it in your art style. If it's for personal practice to improve go for it!!
FoxboyPrower Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2011
I feel like I just read the user agreement like I do when downloading software. And it said the same basic thing too.
Yes I agree.
StangWolf Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You'd be surprised how often people don't understand these basic (should be common sense) things. Plus, I think what mainly spurred it was the tracing thing, and even referencing sometimes, every artist's opinion is different when regarding these two things.
FoxboyPrower Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2011
You would be surprised how often people abuse the software agreement.
StangWolf Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I bet, I think a lot of people have it in their head "What are the odds I'll get caught?" or "No one is even gonna notice." which makes me think of the people I've heard in my life who look at car accidents like "oh whatever, what are the odds I'll get in an accident?" shit does happen.
FoxboyPrower Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2011
So true.....
Finally! The 3d model of Torch is done.
StangWolf Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Nice! =D
FoxboyPrower Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2011
I wish I could just upload the 3d file.
StangWolf Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Oh wow that's pretty neat! I hate to say I have no clue how 3D models and such work, but that is pretty darn nifty!
(1 Reply)
Vampire-Sacrifice Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
this is a really nice and helpful journal. Kind of you to share!
StangWolf Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Well thank you! I'm glad you think so.
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Submitted on
September 6, 2011


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