A State of Art Portraits

Using grids for proportions

I was taught to use the grid method in elementary school and was amazed at how simple it was to use. Unfortunately, I was under the impression that using a grid was 'cheating' so I never used it again. Years later I went to an exhibit of Vincent van Gogh and was astonished to see that he and many other masters used the grid method! Well that was good enough for me!

I decided to give the method another try. I drew grid lines, 1 inch apart, with a permanent marker onto an sheet of acetate film. I blew up my reference photo to the size that I wanted and placed the acetate over top. I then drew grid lines with an F pencil onto my drawing surface. While this worked very well, I was spending too much time drawing and erasing the grid lines.

I now blow up my image to a size that I am happy and print it off. I then print a grid that I created in photoshop (you can also use a word document) directly overtop of the printed image.
Reference Photo

Then I print the same grid onto a piece of regular copy paper and draw my initial sketch on the copy paper.
Initial Sketch

Once I am happy with my drawing I use a light box and transfer the drawing to my drawing paper. Originally I used my glass dining room table with a lamp underneath or a window which actually worked just as well as the lightbox. If I have a hard time seeing the lines, I will go over them with pen so that I can see more easily.
Final Sketch

This may seem like a bit of work, but if you have ever used the traditional grid method only to be dismayed by grid lines showing through on your final drawing, the work seems minimal in the long run. Also, I found that drawing my grid lines manually often led to slight discrepancies between the grid on the picture and on my drawing. Small discrepencies turn into big discrepancies when you are working on a portrait!


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