A few tips for the portrait drawing newbie. How to draw—book recommendations, advice, lessons.
Drawing for Newbies


grid drawing oneA popular tool to help newbie artists see and draw more accurately is the Grid Method. The way this works is that you draw even squares (a grid) all over the picture you want to copy, and then put corresponding squares on your paper. If you want to "size up" the picture for your drawing, you can make larger squares on your drawing paper. All that is important is that all squares are perfectly even.

After you get the grids drawn in on both the picture and the drawing paper, you "match up" each square on the picture you want to copy, to the squares on your sketch paper. This helps you break down the picture into smaller segments. You then copy what is in each square, individually. Using this method, you are more apt to get things placed in the right spot, and in proportion. This method can be very encouraging to the newbie artist!

Also, when you copy what's in these squares individually, it will help you see the Negative Space of the portion of image that's in each square. This will help train your eye further to draw what you see!

grid drawing 2Of course, once you do a a number of drawings with the smaller proportioned squares (as seen in the illustration above) it is probably a good idea to start using slightly larger squares, then even larger, and so on. Consider the grid method as a process to help you to lean how to draw more accurately on your own.

The larger the squares are in your grid, the more drawing and seeing you do to get the drawing right. Each square is bigger, so you have to work harder to fill up each square accurately.

If you were to stick with the smaller squares for your drawings, you'll get to a point eventually where you'll start to stagnate—not learn anything new. By gradually using bigger squares (and then eventually graduating to no squares at all) you'll be teaching yourself to draw freehand!

The grid method is a very encouraging drawing tool—but it should be used as a stepping stone to help you develop additional drawing skills.

I've noticed a trend among some newer artists—they are relying on the grid method alone, and are not able to draw anything without using it. They tell themselves that this is OK, because the "old masters" and other famous artists of yesteryear used the grid method. But this is only partly accurate.

It's true, many of the "old masters" did use the grid method in their drawing at times. Sometimes, they used it to to transfer their own smaller drawings onto a much larger (sometimes mural-sized) canvas. This was an appropriate use of the grid—murals are just SO huge, it would have taken forever to try to transfer an image on them by drawing freehand!

However, these "old masters" drew very well on their own. They didn't rely on the grid method for everything. They didn't need to. They drew very well from their imagination and from life. They painted "action" poses, fantasy figures (like dragons, etc.) and self-portraits—poses that would be impossible to capture with a grid, or any other pre-photographic optical aid or device. These artists used the grid method, but they knew the value of drawing freehand.

As nifty as the grid method can be, it should not be accepted as your "final destination." It shouldn't be the only technique you'll be using. Imagine the inconvenience of being saddled with the grid method forever. (All those squares, squares, squares!) So, if you decide to try out the grid method, consider it a "stepping stone" to freehand drawing.

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