Monkey see, monkey do. Monkey also scream and throw pencil when having bad time.
I always drew as a hobby. Started with tracing sonic the hedgehog comics and i've been drawing ever since. I improved gradually until college. I had a couple crappy chris hart books, and I took a couple art classes in high school plus a sketching class in college. Most of my improvement has been from pure practice and referencing real life and masters of the craft.
Things that helped me improve:
- Tracing reference photos. Tracing a reference photo purely for practice and getting a hold of how a part is shaped helps you recreate that shape in the long run.
As a supplement to life drawing, however, tracing can assist in nailing the finer points of how anatomy works. I'm not saying that this should be a sole informant to drawing complex subject matter, I'm saying that it can help if you cant seem to nail proportions/lines/what have you just right.
Furthering this particular example, tracing can be a method of studying proportion. By tracing the material, or laying trace paper over it, the artist can further break down the subject into simpler shapes, or lines representing how long certain pieces are. Examples being:
Tracing paper and reference shots can do wonders for one's understanding of proportion, as it allows for a more direct visual reference to be made. As lines are drawn to measure different pieces of the subject, an observation can be clearly made: this line length is to this line length.
Is it a replacement for life drawing? Absolutely not. Should this be someone's sole method of learning proportion? No. Can it be a valuable part of breaking down proportions and adding to a study by allowing you to do your own direct analysis? Up to the person doing the study. I'm simply suggesting trace paper/volume analysis/proportion analysis as another method of breaking down what you want to draw.