(This journal entry is more or less me ranting; if you don't feel like listening to...reading me be pissy and frequently sarcastic, feel free to scroll on by, I won't be offended. :3 General 'you', not directed at anyone in particular, etc. etc. This was written at stupid o'clock, so I'm going to have to come back later and edit it for comma abuse and missing words)
"But I do X, I don't need to learn how to draw!"
First off, let me say that I personally believe that the only way one can accurately pixel something is to first know how to draw it. For example, if you really want to pixel eyes well, get some scrap paper or a sketchbook, and draw eyes. Draw your own eyes, draw your roommates' eyes, draw your mother, sister, brother, cousin's eyes, draw the eyes of random people on the street. Just keep drawing. Do it every day, whether you feel like it or not; repetition is frequently the only way to improve. Look at how different eyes are shaped, some wide, some thin, some with a heavy brow, others with a high, curved one. Look at the bags under the eye, and see how they contribute to the over-all shape of the eye. The internet is a vast resource for stock images to use as reference, use them.
I myself am primarily interested in three-dimensional mediums, so I'm not particularly enamored of drawing. I do it frequently however, because I've had many teachers who have drilled a simple fact in to my head: no matter what your favored art medium is, drawing can help you improve. It will help you learn to see things as they are actually shaped, rather than how your tricky brain thinks they ought, to be shaped. The brain is programmed to recognize faces, that's why you frequently see faces where there are none (pareidolia, if you're interested in looking it up). But this face recognition can actually hinder your ability to draw faces; drawing helps you to get past that. There's a reason basic drawing classes are required for art majors in school, because it helps. So yes, learning how to draw something will absolutely help you, regardless of what it is you do.
"Art is just a hobby, I don't need to practice, jeez!"
That's fine, if you don't want to practice, you don't have to. But you resign yourself to the fact that, even if you're an amazing hobbyist, you'll never be as good as you could be. No matter what your current skill level, there is always room to improve. Practice doesn't have to be some arduous, time sucking thing. Take five minutes and put pencil to some form of paper, if you do that every day, you will improve. If you're a student, doodle your classmmates and teachers in the margins of your notes; studies have even shown that students who doodle in class better retain information. Presumably art is a hobby because you like doing it, so stop treating practice like something that isn't supposed to be fun, because it is.
If you really, truly think you hate drawing, first ask yourself whether you really hate it, or if you're just frustrated because what you draw doesn't turn out the way you want. Personally, I'm dysgraphic, so I have some motor control issues, and because of that for a long time I thought I really hated to draw; holding a pencil for long periods of time makes my hand cramp up something awful. Once I learned to pace myself and take frequent breaks, I've found that, while drawing and I still aren't BFFs, I hate it a lot less.
When you find yourself frustrated, walk away. Just stop for a while, and go do something cathartic. Kill mobs in your favorite game, cook something, have a nap. Once a drawing frustrated me so much that I took a lighter to it and set it on fire. (If you choose this route, do it outside, don't burn your house down just for catharsis.) Once you're calmer, come back, try again. You might be able to salvage your sketch, or you might have to start over. If you find yourself frustrated again, walk away again; practice doesn't have a deadline.
"Tracing isn't REALLY stealing, because I'm just taking the pose, right?"
Yes, it is. If you trace something, you're taking that artist's style and offering it up for free, and thus taking away a huge part of an artist's brand. Unlawful reproduction of an artist's work, takes away from that artist's ability to sell their art. As someone who's only form of earned income comes from art, this attitude concerns me greatly. Think of a drawing like a designer bag (if you hate designer bags, think of something you like and use that), what the tracer is doing is taking the bag's pattern and reproducing it. Even if the copy is of inferior quality, the very existence of the knock-off, means that a large number of people will purchase or use the that, rather than the original bag, simply because the price-tag is smaller.
Some (perhaps even many) people will still buy the designer version, because they like the superior quality, or because of brand loyalty. At the risk of sounding commercial, in the art world, having a recognizable brand is a big fucking deal. If you take something from an artist, without credit or permission, then you're stealing from their brand. If you produce a copy of something of theirs, then you're actively taking away from their ability to support themselves as an artist. So yeah, it absolutely is stealing.
"So, if tracing is stealing, that means using any form of reference is stealing, right?"
No. Let me direct you to a painting I'm fond of.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
This is the Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo da Vinci. It is considered the most famous painting in the world.
It's a portrait of a woman named Lisa Gherardini.
I'm not entirely sure where this attitude that using any form of reference ever is wrong and bad. Reference images can help you learn how to see, which is so amazingly important I can't even stress it enough. Other people have explained the concept far better than I ever could, so go read these:
"Ugh, art should be free. Artists who make money are such sell-outs."
Yep, greedy capitalist pig here. Nice to meet you.
"What's all this shit about branding, I feel like I stumbled into an episode of ANTM."
Tyra's got it right, y'all. If you want to be a greedy capitalist pig and make a living as an artist, you have to have something that sets you apart, something distinctive and uniquely you. In other words, a brand. Going back to one of my earlier points, continuous drawing practice will help you a lot in developing your own distinctive style, something that tracing won't ever do. Not long after I created this account, I was actually accused of stealing from myself, because the style of my bases is that distinctive. You want people to be able to look at your work and instantly recognize it as yours, because that's fuckin' money right there. If you want to be a successful artist, you need to learn this shit.
"Why is this artist charging so much for commissions, it's such a rip-off!"
Step one, find out how much minimum wage is where you live. Step two, find out how much time the average commission takes to draw. Step three, calculate YxX=Z, where Y is the hours worked, and X is the minimum wage. Z is the absolute bare minimum you should be charging for your art, even before you factor in the cost of supplies.
In Chicago, where I live minimum wage is $8.25/hr. If I spend 10 hours on a commissioned painting, that's $82.50 just for time spent. Factor in the cost of canvas, paints, that total is closer to $100. Consider also that art is considered a skilled position, so a good artist ought to be making considerably more than minimum wage per hour. So, an artist who charges $40-$60 for a digital painting is not only not over-charging, they're undercutting themselves pretty heavily.
Maybe you want to ask yourself why, if you like the art enough to want to buy it, you undervalue art and the time and effort the artist puts into it so very badly.
In closing, practice as much as you can stand, and work on developing a distinctive style and brand for yourself. Don't force artists to undercut their prices just because our society undervalues art as a whole. Appreciate that all art takes skill, even if that skill is just brass balls big enough to put a urinal on display and call it art. If you like an artist enough to steal from them, maybe you ought to consider not...doing that.
That's all for now.