Tracing bases

Well, a whole argument popped up on DA. Someone’s art was traced to make a base and they were upset about it. So she posted it in her journal and the basemaker got hardcore flamming, which could easily make a person cry.
I don’t believe that tracing (and publishing online) is right but also don’t agree with the flamming. If you don’t realise that you are doing wrong, how will mass-flaming help. It would probably make me leave DA and never do dolling again. Although some people may believe that this weeding out of “bad” people is a good thing, I disagree. What is needed is a dialog between the groups. If you explain why the person was “wrong” and then show them what is “right” then all’s good.
So that motivated me to write this. I don’t know if it useful in any way or if it is just a bunch of jumbled ramblings but I certainly felt better after writing it.

A lot of people during the argument said things like “but isn’t a base just a tracing?” “Aren’t bases meant to be traced?”. It seems like they don’t have a grasp as to what a base really is. I wish to expand the reader beyond these concepts. Particularly addressing that irritating “meant”.

So what is a base anyway?

This may not seem like an important question but I think it is. I know that I cringe when people talk crap like “devolution”. If people knew the “proper” definition of evolution then perhaps they would realise how stupid they sound…

So let’s try getting to the root of this then. Answers.com. Some basic definitions of the word “base” are:

– The lowest or bottom part: the base of a cliff; the base of a lamp
– The fundamental principle or underlying concept of a system or theory; a basis.
– A starting or reference point

Basically, what this means is that the base is the starting point. All things “doll” starts with a base. But really, not all that helpful to the matter at hand.

The first thing I normally do when I have this sort of question is Wiki it:

Bases are the templates upon which dolls are drawn.

So really, just the same meaning as the ones above with different wording. It doesn’t say “Bases are images traced form other people’s work” or anything like that. Bases are not “meant” to be traced.
Wiki does have to say this:

It is, however, a popular method to trace over a photograph or other image to create a base or a doll. Similarly, an artist may draw inspiration from other people’s work. Neither of these practices are generally considered plagiarism, though some see them as such. A fair amount of controversy has arisen over the years as many people have been discovered to have copied their bases from graphic sites that are in a foreign language.

I like to think that this page is outdated (why else would it be called “Dollz”), since the page has long since been locked. It does not reflect the dolling community.

Looking at DA’s definition and all I got from it was “a doll base is a doll base”. Hmmm…could this be part of the reason why so many DA members are clueless as to what a base is “meant” to be?

OK, so we have a basic definition: bases are the starting point in the creation of a doll. Move beyond that and the definition seems to get a bit flaky. Can we trace or can’t we trace?

The non-technical side of things

We’ve tried to define bases but that didn’t seem to resolve the tracing issue. So let’s look at the non-defined side of things, such as the emotion behind it all.

My lovely friend Blue wrote a little DA article which I think nicely explains why tracing is wrong.
This is how it feels when someone “steals” your art:

This is pick pocketing the imagination; this is reaching into someone’s heart and soul and stealing something they have poured themselves into. I’ve had it done, and you know what? It hurts. It’s upsetting. It’s not ‘just fun’.

While there are people out there who do not mind their art being traced and may even be flattered by it, there are a lot of people out there who are deeply hurt by it. I know how it feels. You dedicate hours to something, put your very soul into it and then discover that someone has stolen/traced it and not only does it look inferior (in your mind at least) but the thief is getting all this praise for it. It’s like studying every evening for an exam, having someone who rarely studies copy all your hard-earned answers and they get an award for it.

So this then leads to people arguing “but you can’t own a pose. All poses have been done before”.
Maybe this is true, maybe there are no new poses in the world, but does that give a right to trace? The concept of magical people learning magic at school has been done before but did J.K. Rowling copy Terry Pratchett word-for-word? No, she took the concept, the pose if you will, and made it her own (note: this is just a poor analogy. I am in no way suggesting that JKR has stolen from anyone or has even read TP’s books). You may feel like you cannot make an original pose but you can certainly make an original doll. Without tracing.
As Blue states:

Taking a pose is allowed, so long as the bulk of the work is your own, and no tracing is involved.

So we can’t trace at all?

Now that we’ve established that artists generally don’t like tracing and tracing can be very very hurtful, does that mean that no one on this planet should trace ever again? Not at all.

I’ve traced and I’d say that the majority of people have traced at some point in their lives. I don’t know if it helped me learn but others claim that it has. So this would be acceptable tracing – learning through tracing. The problems arise the moment publish your traced works. That is not acceptable. A traced picture would be like a sketch and they should not be published as if it were some great masterpiece.

It should also be noted that tracing can only get you so far. It can not make you a great artist. If you wish to learn how to make great art then you need to study the human body, sketch with reference and sketch without reference. That is really the only way.

Finally, if you still feel the strange burning desire to publish traced works, at the very least ask permission first. Regardless of whether it is a drawing or a photo (unless it’s a stock photo. In that case, follow the rules they’ve placed). Many people will say no but others will say yes. And if someone does say no or you can’t find a way to contact the artist, don’t be rude and disrespectful and trace the picture anyway. We certainly don’t need anymore horrible people in the world.

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