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To Grid or Not To Grid

February 4, 2010

gridFrom time to time I get e-mails from viewers asking for help or advice on certain topics. It occurred to me that other people might be wondering about these things as well. The folowing letter came from someone torn about whether or not to use a grid:

Hi. I was just wondering about using a grid.
What do you think about it?
I mean, for me I think it’s kinda cheating. I’ts a great way to help yourself so you can see were you should put everything but it feels like cheating.
Do you think it’s okay to use grids everytime you are doing a portrait?

And here was my response: 

This is a great question, and one that I have also struggled with. You will always find people with different opinions when it comes to using a grid. Some people feel that it’s “cheating” and that it’s not art. Then again, some people believe that simply recreatinga photo (realism) is not art. Everyone has a different idea and at the end of the day, you will have to decide what you’re comfortable with.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with using a grid. I see it as another tool available to the artist, and why shouldn’t we use all the tools at our disposal?

One of the reasons I use it is time. I could draw a portrait without a grid, but it would take more time. When I’m doing commissions, I have to consider the amount of time it’s going to take versus the amount a person will be willing to pay. Anything that can help cut down on time is good!

Another reason why I don’t have a problem with a grid is that it still requires an “artistic eye.” Making a grid doesn’t guarantee a successful, or even a realistic drawing. The artist still needs to edit, make changes and measure relationships. When we draw, we look at how the different parts of the subject relate to eachother. When we use a grid, we are simply adding another element to measure those relationships.

You’re right, a grid can really help you to see where things should go. It’s a great tool for learning, but as you say, it may not be the best method every time. It’s really up to you whether or not you want to use it. Personally, if a recognizable likeness is your main goal, then I would not shy at using a grid!

What are your thoughts on using a grid? Cheating? Tool? Something else?


From → Drawing

  1. I agree that a grid, just like new colors of paint or a new type of eraser, is a tool. The point, in my opinion, is the finished product. If I use a premixed gray paint rather than mixing it from the primaries, I’m a painter, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is does the final painting convey the emotion and story I want it to?

    But then again,I am the type that bucks the “system” every chance I get. Great subject!


  2. I always start a painting with a grid. A grid is just a tool no more no less. It’s no more cheating than using a brush or a pencil.

  3. Robert permalink

    Well there are a lot of tools available, like a computer. You can do a copy of the original and scale it to the right dimensions and use it as a reference. That’s just copying. It can be called art and doesn’t matter who will make the copy by hand there will be no two copies identical. I think a true artist should be able to draw a scaled picture without a grid. But you’re right when we talk about the time it takes (related to the money) any tool is good.

  4. For me it is cheating. I wonder how many of these “artists” would be able to draw from nature and real models, and not just from a photo, using a grid. No offence, just my honest oppinion. I see no difference between a “drawing” made with grid and a coloring book

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