Botanical Art and Natural Science Illustration – Drawing Tip #8

Get out your Tracing Paper!

Botanical Artists and Natural Science Illustrators should make tracing paper a staple in your of art studio.

Tracing paper is wonderful! I love working with it for all sorts of reasons. Here are my top 8 ways to use tracing paper:

1.    Overlay a piece of tracing paper on top of your art to preserve it.
2.    Protect your art while drawing.
 Place a sheet under your hand while drawing to keep the paper clean. The tracing paper is transparent so you can still see your drawing underneath while protecting from smudges.
3.    Tracing paper allows you to draw on the front and the back.You can draw a leaf on the front, then flip the paper and draw a leaf overlapping on the back and then flip it back over and erase where the lines overlap. This ensures that the background leaf is not disjointed in the composition.
4.    Drawings on Tracing paper can be xeroxed on the front and back side to give multiple images of one drawing.
I have used xeroxed copies of the front & the back of a drawing to reconstruct plants, especially when I have a plant with a lot of overlapping leaves.
5.     Multiple images can be layered and overlapped to create compositions. I use this all the time to compose my paintings. I start by having a large amount of drawings/sketches that I want to place in the painting and then I move them around, overlap them and manipulate them to finalize a composition. The composition then ends up on one piece of trace that is then transferred onto my final paper.
6.    Having drawings/sketches on tracing paper allow you to have a permanent record of the drawing and all of the components. 
They can be reused at another time for an entirely different painting.  See the tulips below. One was used as a traditional botanical composition and then used again in a loose painting for a ceramic tile. The colors were changed. Can you tell which one I used twice?
7.    Use it to place your signature on a painting before you commit to it on the original. I sign my name on a piece of tracing paper and then move it around the painting to make sure that the size is not too small or too big. I make sure that I like the placement and that it is not crooked. I used to just go for it and sign, only to find out that it was going on a downward slant. I also used to sign my name in paint. It would then be very difficult to correct. I would then obsess about it and not be able to see anything but the lousy placement of my signature.
8.    Use it to place over your drawing to correct drawing mistakes. 
On days when you find that you just can't  get your drawings looking accurate you can end up erasing the correct parts of a drawing, instead of the mistakes. This can be frustrating and counter productive. Place a piece of tracing paper over your drawing and make corrections. You can then place the revised drawing underneath, (provided that your beginning drawing is on sketch.) erase and correct the mistake.

Special Tip:
I use Tracing Vellum instead of regular tracing paper. It can be found at the art store. I prefer Canson Vidalon Vellum.