You’re Not Tracing Those?

I have been going crazy with an infected cut in a finger that prevents me from doing much and certainly not gripping a brush, pencil, or needle. Rats.

Meanwhile, I leave this rumination on a book:


Aren’t we all taught as artists never to trace things, but to do our own drawings? Apart from the copyright issues, tracing is sort of cheating for most of us.

However, in some instances, with permission from the artist, it could work as a tutorial. I came across the blog of Jill, and noticed that apart from her own original art, she was teaching her daughter and other family members to paint flowers in watercolour using several book tutorials.

When I looked these books up I was surprised to see so many similar tracing-type books had been published. They include tear-out sheets of line drawings to trace, and then step-by-step tutorials for painting them. Sometimes the hardest thing about watercolour is knowing which colours to layer or mix to get the colour you want, so these tutorials looked practical to me.

What really impressed me though was the way Jill had used her own style and the finished painting was recognizably her own style and different from the various book author’s styles, regardless of “following” the tutorial.

I got curious and browsed the books and looked at previews. I decided to order the one I am citing because it uses examples from four artists rather than one, and you get 15 tutorials rather than five or six. I think some or all of these examples were published previously in each author’s individual titles but I liked the idea of having an overview from four different people in one book, so I ordered it.

Plus I like these lilies it includes too.


I was thinking it might be fun to incorporate several bits and pieces of the line drawings into one composition of flowers in a vase, paired with my own vase drawing and a decorative object of my own. That way I could do the tutorials without becoming bored with copying the art exactly.

Most often I use watercolour and coloured pencils together so it might be fun to apply my style to a tutorial written for just watercolour. Anyway, there seemed to be several ways to configure the basic information as a jumping-off point to my own variations and compositions.

Bugs perhaps? Yeah, the old bug in the lily trick might work.



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4 Comments on “You’re Not Tracing Those?”

  1. nickybulger Says:

    I like the idea of that book too. I’ve always wanted to be an artist but had little talent, I’m a doodler and I’m in to Zentangle’s too, where we follow a small repeatable pattern and make it our own.

    • JJ ColourArt Says:

      I have 2 Zentangle books, they can be used in so many ways.

      I believe everyone has artistic talent and the ability to draw. Sometimes you just get there from a different path. You might find that if you work from a book like this you will enjoy it so much that you’ll begin to draw your own. It can be daunting to draw, because you compare your first lame efforts with other artists, but if you keep drawing it develops, you get better, just like you got better at drawing and applying zentangles.

      Have you tried the Betty Edwards book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”? See if you can scrounge a copy up in the library.

      • nickybulger Says:

        I will look for the book thanks. I’ve always done fibercrafts, knitting, crochet, beading, knotwork, macrame and things like that, but usually followed someone elses pattern. I’m beginning to make my own. Asn so came across zentangles, which look to me like the doodles that i used to do in my notes. With drawing I have a perfectionist thing if I cant get it right the first time I dont want to continue, I’m working on that voice of self doubt too.

        • JJ ColourArt Says:

          Someone once said to me “Perfect is the enemy of good.” In my 20s I would have temper tantrums and throw things out if they weren’t perfect, but I have gradually been overcoming that, and I get a lot more done.

          It’s true that if it isn’t perfect it can still be excellent. Every project that you persevere with increases your skill.

          I can remember knitting a garter stitch scarf–isn’t that everyone’s first knitting project? It was awful and uneven and lumpy, and there were all kinds of dropped stitches and fixes through it. Now I can knit beautifully just because I kept on with it.

          Drawing is just the same.

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