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Readers Respond: Is it Possible to Cheat at Art?

Responses: 69


Do you think that some of the things people do when painting are cheating? Such as tracing a photo or using a projector? Do you believe artists should not use photos at all, but ought to paint from real life? Or do you think anything goes, that it's the end result that matters not how you got there or what you used? Share your views on cheating at art here.

You Can't Cheat Detail...

I've been drawing freehand since I was a kid. However, the older I get the less time I have, particularly with three children. To save time while my four-month-old sleeps, I'll definitely trace the outline and it easily saves me two or three hours I don't usually have. However... you can't cheat detail. The drawings I've done where I've traced the outline turned out really good because of my attention to detail and the skill it takes. So I say no. You can trace all you want but there is no way to cheat detail. Tracing detail stand out and looks sloppy. Trace whatever you want, in the end, it's all in the detail. If you aren't good at detail your tracing won't be any good.
—Guest Majewski79

Borrowing vs. Stealing

If the great artists were alive today I find it hard to believe they wouldn't use every single tool imaginable to create GREAT art. That however probably would not include outright creative theft of a painting, picture, etc. They would add their own touches of creativity or life into the work. That would be what makes it their own. When it comes to completely original work I feel artists should be able to do whatever it takes to make their art their own (and meaningful to them). If that means tracing, sketching, etc, then so be it. As long as they enjoy making and seeing / appreciating their work then they should be able to use whatever skills they have. Of course it pains me to see someone using Adobe Illustrator to dress up a painting -- but probably because I'm not that good at it. More power to them.
—Guest Some Artist

Don't Believe You Can Cheat

Since art is a form of creativity and emotion, I don't really believe you can cheat. Even with a computer as long as you are not copying someone else's work, and that will get you nowhere quick.
—Guest garyz23


I get great pleasure from being able to draw freehand and create a composition. Not everyone can do this. I would say I have gained while others get less from their art. I choose not to call it cheating.
—Guest Kathy


Yes it is possible to cheat at art. Some even take coloured photocopies, trace parts out and then paint. What's the point of trying such a gimmick -- where is your creativity to pass off a painting as entirely of your own imagination?
—Guest Odile Pereira

Tracing Facts

If you are tracing your OWN sketches and such, a sketch that is meant for your painting, then that is okay. Tracing from a photo, however, is NOT, because you are not creating. Photos should only be used as a reference and guide to how you might want something to be. However, you do not cheat at art by painting a landscape that is real, because you are merely expressing that landscape through your own feelings and hands.
—Guest Skye

Tracing is Copying

I have been drawing since I can remember. I used to trace hands to practice them, only to practice and get the idea of how to draw them. ( I had trouble with hands.) But I only did that in the beginning, because as one has to do with anything they set out to do, I had to challenge myself so I could get better at it. Some types of art, like using stencils, is something where tracing an image would be acceptable. My opinion. But to trace another artists original idea and pass it off as your own is stealing someone else's hardwork and creativity! It takes time, years, to be able to have the skill to draw free hand for many artists. So instead of tracing, practice your craft if that'd really what you want to do, or leave it to the people who really work for it.
—Guest Artist

The Gift of Drawing

Look, as a person who can draw freehand, I feel annoyed if you are someone who passes off a beautifully drawn picture that you have traced as your own! However I don't believe that I am an artist just because I can "draw freehand" just the same as a person is not a musician just because he/she is was born with a great voice or a person with the terrific ability to tell great stories is a writer. It all takes practice of your skills whether you are born with them or whether you have learnt them because you are passionate about it. If you are making people happy with your art and it is not a direct copy of someone else's work, then go ahead. If you are practicing using tracing/copying someone's work then write that down on the back of the work. Don't cheat yourself- you wont feel good about it in the long run. I only consider myself an artist when I have drawn or painted what I feel in my heart and I know is no one elses work!. Don't forget to have fun!

You're Kidding Right?

Why bother at all if you're going to cheat? The mastery of being an artist is creating something original. If someone else created it then you are not the artist. You would then be the scanner or photocopier. That's different... there are large penalties for copying the work of others especially if you plan to sell "your" work.
—Guest reality2me

It's all Relative

Personally I try to avoid tracing or similar methods when painting as I find it untrains my eye for achieveing a natural perspective. However, I also currently paint cards to sell at market. For these I tend to trace the photos I use as subject matter (strictly my own) because, due to the amount I get paid per card compared to the time I would otherwise spend trying to get an initial sketch I was happy with, it is much more cost efficient for me to achieve a quick but accurate sketch and then concentrate my energies on the painting itself.

Try Different Things

As an new artist I learned from watching many other great artists. They all do say one thing. Try different things, different ways to get different effects. You are suppose to try and do different things. That's a true artist.
—Guest Shukara

If Tracing is Cheating, Warhol is a Scam

Many people here are firing off at tracing and other tools like projectors as cheating. Is that so even if the end result is a beautiful, unique painting? These tools are just means to an end. If so, then Andy Warhol and his screen prints of photographs in my opinion, would classify as a far greater cheat then tracing would be. They're just prints. Handmade, but still, screen-prints. Some critics at the time did claim Warhol was a cheat, but that is certainly not how the artworld feels today and history sees him, not least because of his eight figure sales at the Christie´s auctions the other day.
—Guest Doodler

It Is If You Feel It Is

When you don't feel 100% thrilled with your creation though it turned out good because you took an easy way out you will know you cheated. What comprises cheating and what does not is very subjective. For instance, if you had to copy a well-known artwork for an art assignment and you traced it out, it would definitely be cheating because you cannot improve on your skill in drawing line and form. If you had to paint a landscape from memory and you referred to photos would that not be cheating? You need to know in your mind the effect of light and shadows and perspective. If you look at a photo it is like looking into your book in an exam. But if you had to paint a portrait and you referred to photos that would not be cheating because you have to reproduce what you see. You could however cheat by printing the photo, enlarging it and tracing it out. This would conceal your weakness in being able to draw a likeness. Though the results maybe acceptable, hear the little voice inside.
—Guest Vijaya


I know of an artist who is quite successful, he uses a projector to help him when he produces a painting. I used to think that this was "cheating", but I have changed my opinion over time. I really enjoy this person's paintings, I really like his choice of subjects as well as the colors he chooses to use in his paintings. What it comes down to for me is that his finished product brings me to a place that I enjoy, and the fact that he used a projector in his development of what I consider to be a "work of art" is immaterial. I now consider his use of the projector, as I would consider his use of a pencil or a brush or any other tool that he might use to make what in the end is his own creation.
—Guest BillyO

Definitely Not Cheating

It is entirely up to the artist what he/she wants to do, it is the end result that counts. You would be surprised what the Old Masters got up to!
—Guest Diane King

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