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January 9, 2013
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This was originally written in response to a comment on the profile of the :iconmlp-vectorclub: MLP-VectorClub. A portion of that comment has been edited for clarity and reproduced here: 

I need your guys' opinion about something that has been bothering me recently...
I'm going to try to be as non-partisan as possible; anyway, browsing around dA, I've seen people that say that frame traces in particular are an insult to the art community and, I quote, "not considered art," and people who do frame traces are, I quote, "attention-whores," and they attacked this group in particular. Being a part of the brony fandom and this group, I really didn't know what to think of this.

You raise a very important point, and one that has oft been on my mind since I joined the pony vectoring community. A lot of what we aim for in the MLP-VectorClub is to make a perfect (or better than perfect) reproduction of a piece of a screenshot. Is that art? Does that belong on a site that describes itself as a "vibrant social network environment [that] receives over 160,000 daily uploads of original art works"? Probably not. And yet it is here.

In the face of this, we must find a reason to justify this groups existence. The common one that is given, and one that you may have heard before, is that vector traces are provided as a resource. They are used as references by many, and are often incorporated into wallpapers, PMVs, website banners, and all manner of other works. This is a useful service to the greater MLP fandom. Thus we have a justification for tracing and for this group's existence. But this justification has always left something to be desired in my mind, and I have just recently figured out why. It justifies the MLP-VectorClub's existence, but it doesn't justify the existence of it on deviantART.

And so I put forth a second justification. To quote deviantART's about page, "deviantART was created to entertain, inspire, and empower the artist in all of us" (emphasis mine). As an admin of this group for almost a year now, I have seen first hand how that applies here. The growth I have seen amongst some of the budding young artists in this group has been astonishing. Many people visit the MLP-VectorClub, and many are entertained. Of those that are entertained, a smaller number are inspired to try their hand at vectoring. Through the tutorials in the gallery and through the guidance of admins and veteran members alike they are empowered to create. At first, most people create traces. But through their growing mastery of the tools of vector graphics that they gain by their experience tracing, I have seen many deviants make the artistic leap to creating original pieces. Many of these people never thought that they could be artists, never thought that they had an artistic bone in their body, but now find themselves making art. And surrounding them, supporting them, helping them grow, they have watchers and friends, many of whom they gained while tracing. I'll quote deviantART again: "deviantART was created to entertaininspire, and empower the artist in all of us." I'd say that's exactly what we do here at the MLP-VectorClub.
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:iconmillennialdan:
Certainly describes me pretty well. Kudos!
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:iconmewtwo-ex:
=SirCxyrtyx: You really hit the nail on the head with your last paragraph here. Thank you for posting it! Here is my story and my thoughts on this topic. (...and apologies in advance for the essay.)

As a long-time member of dA (April '05), I was always apprehensive to post photo-manipulations, traces or other such derivative works. There are some strict rules regarding reuse of photos and the like. As a result of these policies, I moved away from dA, and art in general, for several years. From about '07-'12, all I posted were the occasional desktop screenshot. Then Ponies came along.

#MLP-VectorClub was one of the first brony groups that I came across after becoming a brony myself (Sept '12), and I immediately decided that I wanted in. I had played around with Illustrator before my art hiatus, and though "what better reason to try this again?" I set about tracing my very first pony, encountering such problems as tapers, fill errors, overlap and the like. Discussions with *LazyPixel and =SirCxyrtyx helped me to improve, as well as introduced me to the wonderful stroke-width tool.

Time passed, and I finished the 4 required traces to be admitted into the club. Some more traces were done, more feedback received, and general positive interactions with other wonderful people, including club VIs. Around December, I was fairly bored with tracing, and decided to take requests as a way to get exposed to more styles and have more freedom.

Today I mostly trace pony poses, then add hair and tails through free-hand (for OCs at least). My ability to take a rough sketch and make a show-accurate pony has also become known to me. 4 months ago, I wouldn't have ever though I would have that ability. Hopefully in the future, I'll be able to make my own poses from scratch. All of this is thanks to the crazy show that is MLP:FiM, this wonderful group, and the amazing people who make up its staff and members. I have also helped a particular person improve his vectors, and he has shown amazing improvement over just a few weeks.

dA, through this group, this fandom, etc, has certainly empowered me to make art again (whether traced or my own original), and to feel confident enough in my abilities to offer them for requests and critiques. The feedback I have received, both positive and negative, has inspired me to better myself and my artistic abilities, as well as provide feedback to others. Finally, all the great Pony art posted to this and other clubs certainly provides me with plenty of entertainment, as does the vector process itself. Had there been restrictions on tracing, I probably would have made a couple vectors for my own amusement, and then stopped.

So, I'm glad that we are able to reference show materials, as it helps budding artists ease into the art style. From there, it is up to the individual as to how far they take it. Everyone has to start somewhere, and tracing is a great place to start.
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:iconpirill-poveniy:
Couldn't agree more, especially since I can give myself as a perfect example. I started doing vectors because I wanted to give something back to the community, as little as it may be since I was failing at art last year. Since then I was inspired by the work of so many amazing vector artists and even made the move to do some original stuff! I probably would never have come this far if I wasn't doing all those show traces to learn the ways of the vector programs a while back.
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:iconmysteriouskaos:
MysteriousKaos Jan 9, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yes, I have to agree with you, tracing does require effort, you need to know how to vector and then they also serve as learning vectors when people are still developing their skills
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:iconpresstoshoot:
PressToShoot Jan 9, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Very well said
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