I was born with a talent for art. It started with me drawing cartoons that I saw on tv, to the little cartoons bordering the chalkboard, etc. I could copy things very well for my age. Then I started to draw my own things, usually made up animals. When I discovered Anime, I didn’t know how to draw them myself. I traced a bunch of anime girls and nekomimi (Japanese catgirls). Then instead of tracing, I free handed characters from animes I was watching. Then once I had it down, I started to draw my own characters in anime style. My friends nicknamed me Xerox and my enemies made fun of me for tracing or copying.
It used to bother me and make me feel embarassed, but eventually I realized that tracing and copying is how I learned, and that I shouldn’t be ashamed of that. Once I learn a new style, or concept, I am then equipped to do my own work in that style or technique. When people asked how I learned to draw, I used to say that I didn’t learn – I just did it. In a way, it’s true. I was born with an art talent, or else I wouldn’t have been able to copy/freehand things so well. But tracing and copying is how I learned to do what I can do now.
When I was young, I only ever drew my original characters in one way – one or two poses, and that was it. Then one day, I decided I wanted to do more poses. So I started to copy poses I would see online, on tv, or magazines. I had stopped tracing things in my teenage years and only freehanded the things that I’d copy to learn. After drawing my characters in new poses, I eventually had the hang of it, in that I could actually create my own poses and create poses from people I would see in person. I have a collection of poses I use, and it’s so helpful. My art has grown so much since I learned to use my talent for freehanding what I see, rather than tracing.
I began to do the same with hairstyles and different ways to draw eyes, expressions, and then items, and clothing… and now there is no limit. But I don’t call it copying anymore. I call it a study… because that is what it is. In my study work, it’s mostly looking up other artwork and techniques and then drawing them myself. In many cases, I don’t draw things exactly as I see them, especially if I feel like I have a better idea or an improvement. Sometimes, I put my own designs on the study as well. There is no shame in learning the different ways to draw something. I am no longer embarrassed with how I learn. I can make my own creative work using that I’ve learned in my studies, and it’s my original work. I don’t know how to be an art teacher, because I know nothing of the technical aspects of artistry, I just do what I do. However, I give others the freedom of learning from my artwork.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between copying as an aid and plagiarism. They are two different things. Copying a pose that you don’t know how to draw on your own, but using your own character, is not plagiarism. If I look at a model in a magazine and copy the pose the model is standing (or sitting, laying, etc) in, and then alter the body shape and proportions, and then turn it into my own original character that looks nothing like the model, you can’t call it stealing. You can’t copyright a pose, otherwise no one would ever be allowed to pose. Same goes for drawn work. You might not know how to draw a pose from your own thoughts, so maybe you take a picture I’ve drawn of a redheaded catgirl maid in a house and copy the pose. Then you alter it to be a blonde elvin archer in a forest. It’s not the same thing. No one is stealing my artwork. I would even go so far as to say that if you drew that blonde elf in a completely different pose and style, but you copied my catgirl’s hair style… it’s still not stealing. I think of it like wearing the same hairstyle as a celebrity… it’s not a big deal and it’s quite flattering. Likewise, you decide to draw my catgirl character on a summer vacation, and as long as you give me credit for my character, then it’s just fan art.
Now, if you draw my catgirl on summer vacation and claim it’s your character… that is stealing. If you draw my catgirl and change her colors and claim it’s yours, then yes, it’s plagiarism. If you draw my catgirl maid but change her to a bunny girl who has the same appearance other than the ears and tail, then it’s still stealing. If you draw my catgirl with a new hairstyle and hair color, it’s still my catgirl and it yeah, it’s plagiarism. The overall character needs to be your own. Taking a pose or a hairstyle, or clothing choice is fine, as long as you aren’t taking the entire character. You can’t make a minor tweak to someone’s character and call it yours. Though you can borrow aspects and still be original with your design. You can even make fan art, just give the original artist credit for their work.