now unlike most artists ill tell you i started learning how to draw by tracing. my mom bought me a small 8x10 light table and i was also lucky enough to have a small projector. some times i did copy line for line, like if i wanted a poster of a certain shot. it gets your hand used to the proportions that other artists are using especially id you sketch on top of another artists work.
then i moved on to compiling shots and mixing tracing to make a story, this, however is where i started to really learn, because you have to break down the figure and start to make it look like your own and make the clothes/costume/hair etc. fit the form. i used to feel so bad about it, because i wasn't confident enough to draw each panel and i couldn't stand the idea of drawing inside a certain sized box - which why tight roughs have been cool because i will draw it, and resize or move certain elements around to make it fit as a whole. Ive also seen artists draw all their stuff in a sketch book and then resize and trace each element onto the final, like Adam Hughes normally works. if you can keep the energy of your original drawings this is good because you will have the confidence you need to draw it yourself, by whatever means you need as long as you can accomplish that it doesn't matter what you do.
drawing from comics has always been a mixed thing, some say do it, others say you'll pick up bad habits or wont know what your describing. and id agree, but i did. i think its especially important when picking up rendering and textural techniques. Ive also been looking at a lot of inking recently.
then the next step would be trying to draw and original picture and use techniques you found when looking at someone else's work, and trying to apply the same ideas but make them work. then you'll relay start understanding what they were trying to do and where to use them. or i used to like to trace a figure and try to change the light source, or if he is cropped trace what you have and finish the rest of the body.
you can also trace photographs, or draw on top of them, or with comic book sand follow background and objects lines back to a vanishing point and find the horizon line, we did this for school at scad, and then even try to "hang the figures" on that line. <-its a techniques for figures in perspective, if you dont know what it means look it up.
THESE ARE ALL THINGS TO PRACTICE AND LEARN FROM - NOT FOR YOUR ACTUAL PAGES. Reference for your pages should be like i said for textures and rendering, but applied to your drawing (ie: a different angle, different environment etc)don't find a character that fits the perspective of a separate background and then trace them together. though that could be helpful, don't use it for your finished pages, maybe just for practice. i think i did all these tings when i didn't have any friends who knew how to draw and i was kind of making habits and building techniques, but i didn't know what they meant.
look at a lot of stuff as well, i used to subscribe to wizard magazine as a kid and go through the 10 cent bins in my comic shop, though it was the early/mid 90's, now its the dollar bins, to get a ton of material from a lot of different artists and compare and see what they are doing well that is the same, you'll start to learn the conventions of comic books, layouts, storytelling, composition, and you'll see who is taking risks, who's playing it safe, who is not doing so well, and what is too much.
now recently when doing the tight roughs i did alot of sketches for the splash page where Karen makes her dressed up, flirty, sexy entrance to entice the doctor into leaving her husband alone. but when i went to go do it, it fell flat. its like i was trying for a stereotype and it didnt work, like the witter of aliens said he first wrote a comedy but it wasn't funny, so he turned to horror. but i stuck it out, and liek i said earlier, started referencing and comparing artists who drew great looking females and then applied those same techniques in my work, once they had become normal, and in my head. i used the reference for my sketchbook but just the memory for drawing it, that is important. there was a certain pose i was looking for and i looked at tons of models, my girlfriend even posed, but it just wasn't clicking. i changed a few things and bam, there it was. a few weeks later i was looking through an issue of danger girl and saw a pose almost exactly like mine, in fact i had toyed with the idea of giving her a fur coat just like the image i was thinking, though it wasn't next to me and i hadn't seen it for some years, i was unconsciously referencing that image. this seems to happen alot when i come up with story ideas, something will happen too easy then ill realize it is because it is just like something i liked and forgot about. so here is the image and here is my image.
they are strikingly similar and i scared myself. however i felt like the way i had worked and the differences in the images, (campbell's is way better and sexier than mine) allowed me to stick with it. but i promised myself not to look at that image too closely when i did my final, and i wont, ill draw from my drawing. i was actually more trying to reference teh whole idea of the scene from the old Romita sr./stan lee, spider-man issue/scene where he finally meets MJ.
however the other day i was searching deviantart and found an image that was ridiculously close to another student's of mine. i found his myspace and found his drawing and compared it, he had traced it, he had zoomed up a bit and changed the costumes (a bit), but the whole thing was WAY too close to even be a drawing based of a drawing. However, I am friends with this student, I will not disclose his ID or what image he referenced. i thought of that, of turning him in to SCAD, i felt it was my duty and i was so conflicted/mad at the same time. and yet if i said anything i knew things would be weird, and he might get in trouble. he's been through a lot these last few quarters and just like anybody in that situation he probably cut a few too many corners and was on a tight deadline, but in the real world he is going to get sued and fired. i just wanted to look out for him but i cant find myself to tell him in a way that will seem like i am trying to help and not trying to turn on him. i didn't even want to know if the same technique applied to the rest of his work and stopped looking right there, i figured ignorance was bliss.
anyways to sum up, a few of the big "no-no's" in comic books can be alot of help IN YOUR SKETCHBOOK, you can learn alot about how comics work and artists you like IN YOUR SKETCHBOOK, but when it comes to drawing your final pages make sure those times you look at other artists stay IN YOUR SKETCHBOOK!
some links you may find interesting related to this topic are as follows, particularly with Greg land and Adam Hughes (AH!).