Edward Sorel: tracing is cheating

Illustrator, cartoonist Edward Sorel was profiled by NY1 about his work drawing covers for prestigious magazines like The New Yorker, The Nation, Esquire, Time.

To Sorel, tracing is cheating.

“If you don’t trace, it’s art. If you trace, it’s illustration,” says Sorel. “For me, working direct is fine art, and tracing is commercial art. That’s the difference.”

11 thoughts on “Edward Sorel: tracing is cheating

  1. I read the text but didn’t watch the video. What context is he speaking in? What artist traces, to begin with, unless it’s doing an inked finish over a rough? I don’t understand. Does he mean drawing realistically might as well be tracing?

  2. The comment doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. There’s a lot of illustration that is created by “working direct”, including his, because I would categorize him as an illustrator, not a fine artist.
    By his definition, I assume he’s contrasting his stuff with the work of illustrators who use photographs for all their source material.

  3. What the h…I hate when other artists demean illustration and act like it isn’t art. I do some freelance illustration and I NEVER frigging trace (unless you consider inking my linework tracing in which case you’re nuts) nor do any of the other illustrators I know.

    That said I do think tracing of photos/ copy pasting stuff isn’t going to help you get any better at drawing whatever it is you’re tracing/copying so I do agree with him that tracing is sorta cheating. I mean, when it comes down to it anyone can trace a photo and have it look decent but only someone with skill and talent can look at a photo and redraw it by eye.

  4. If you think about it long enough, you get into some weird philosophical territory. The fact is, creating a realistic portrayal of an object involves some degree of copying from nature. It seems like the more indirect the method, the more socially sanctioned it is…but why?

  5. I did not mean to imply that I never trace. I trace quite often, and I’m pleased with many of those drawings. However, it seems to me that the drawings I do without benefit of an outline before I use pen and ink, have a different look, a look that I prefer.
    I was NOT putting down illustration. I love illustration. It’s what I do. It’s simply that those illustrations that I do directly seem to
    have a spontaneous quality I admire. It may well be a foolish distinction on my part, and don’t object to being called a fool, but I do object to having my words twisted so that it seems I’m denigrating illustration. I’d rather own a Robert Fawcett than a Robert Motherwell any day.

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