Renaissance drawing technique removes guesswork, lends confidence

Several students sitting around a table are drawing.Using the ancient drawing technique that produced some of the world’s most massive artworks—think Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel—students in Mrs. Duquette’s Studio in Art course are drawing their own likeness, one tiny frame at a time.

They started by penciling a grid over a printed photo of themselves, then drew a grid of equal ratio on their work surface. The grid method, as it is known, is mostly used to scale drawings up or down without distortion.

As a learning exercise, it helps students draw more accurately by processing and reproducing the visual information contained in each individual square—without feeling overwhelmed by the image’s overall complexity.

While they’re just getting started, it’s clear these portraits will look markedly A student smiles at the camera while she works at a desk. She has a printed photo of herself and is creating a grid over a large sheet of paper.different from those they produced free-hand on the first day of class. Leading up to the grid drawing project, students also experimented with drawing the human shape upside down and without lifting their pencil off the page.

“During those exercises, they actually drew things that weren’t there,” Mrs. Duquette said. “That’s because your brain tricks you into drawing what you’re thinking rather than what you’re seeing. The grid method helps to turn off those messages, and students can just focus on what the eye sees in each small square.”

Two students sit at a table with printed photos of themselves. One student is drawing a grid on a large piece of paper.The brain can also decide that transferring the complexity of a human face onto page is simply too big an undertaking. By breaking it down into bite-size portions, students can feel more confident in their endeavor.

On December 17, the High School Winter Concert and Art Show, the students free-hand and grid-drawing portraits be exhibited side-by-side in the school lobby.