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How to Draw with a Grid
Learn How to Draw with a Grid System
People learn how to draw in all different ways.
Drawing techniques can involve drawing geometric shapes to form a figure or structure like John Gnagy in the '50's. Click on his name to see some of these antique treasures.
Or, they can be completely free hand drawing looking at an actual object, drawing from a photo or from a picture in your mind's eye.
My personal choice for beginners is to use a grid system to copy a picture. It helps you
- Look at the relationships of lines to each other
- It helps you focus on just a small part of the bigger picture making the overall process less threatening
- You end up with a drawing that has good perspective and proportion.
The best part in using the grid is that you are unlimited in what subject you can draw. It could be a face, a car, a flower, a bird, a landscape; anything you want.
Looking Back In History
Drawing with a grid actually dates back to the 16th century when Albrecht Durer designed a grid that he could use to look through to see his subject. Since there were no camera, scanners or computers at that time, he had to make a mechanical grid.
He would look through the grid and then draw on a paper he had draw a grid on. He would sketch square by square until he had a finished drawing. His purpose for doing this was to capture the right proportions and perspectives of things he wanted to draw.
You can read more about Albrecht Durer at "The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain." It is available at Amazon or in bookstores and libraries.
"Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain"
This book also gives you some practice images to help develop more skill. I think the most fascinating one was having you draw a knight on a horse, upside down.
Using the grid system, it was really awesome to have to focus on just on square at a time, and when you are all done, there is this fantastic drawing of the knight and horse.
How to Draw with a Grid
I have produced a video which demonstrates how to draw a grid to copy a picture you would like to draw onto paper. The drawing technique is very simple because all you do is copy the lines you see in each square.
You don't have to worry about if it is in perspective or at the right proportion, as long as the square you draw looks just like the one you are copying.
It is really quite rewarding the first time you try it and come up with a very respectable completed outline of a drawing.
What Do You Do Next?
Once you have completed the drawing outline on a paper, you have several options:
- You can trace it onto the canvas or paper you are going to actually paint it on. If you are going to use tracing paper, be sure to use graphite paper only.
- You can change the size of it either using different size squares or by scanning it
- Or, you can use it to sample how you are going to do the completed painting by working on the drawing itself.
Using the Rule of Thirds to Improve Composition
Using a grid to help layout a painting is a very good way to plan placement of key elements such as the focal point. The most common one is "Rule of Thirds."
Here you can see that I have placed the focal point at the cross hairs at the right top intersection, making the distant tree the point where I am trying to lead people. You can use any of the four central points depending on what you are trying to focus on.
The other advantage of this grid is that it divides the painting into 9 squares. For a painting to be good, no two squares should be alike. Also, each square should be able to stand on its own as a painting.
Breaking the painting down into the 9 squares, gives you a chance to look at each square and adjust it so it meets both criteria but still fits into the painting as a whole.
Checking for Balance and Asymmetry
The second most frequently used grid is the half grid.
By dividing the painting in half you can see if each side is different from the other. In most cases, you want asymmetry, but yet balance between each half. If the two sides are very similar, or if one side feels heavier that the other, then you can make changes to improve the composition.
Just like with the "rule of thirds," each side should be able to stand on its own as an individual painting. The only time this would not apply is if you have purposely made something symmetrical.
How Do You Feel About Using a Grid to Draw?
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"How to Draw What You See"
I have found that using the grid to begin a drawing has been very helpful in making me pay attention to drawing what I see. It makes you look at the relationship between lines and shapes.
The next natural progression is to start drawing free hand. You can look at an object and use the newly developed skill of paying attention to relationships.
This book is one I highly recommend for further developing your free-hand skills. It definitely focuses on attending to how objects relate to each other.