View Full Version : How many of you use...

04-05-2006, 06:55 AM
...some sort of aid when drawing such as a projector or grid, etc to get the initial outline drawing completed?
I ask because I had always done my drawings free-hand and was irked by the small inconsistencies between the ref image and my drawing (when I was working from a ref pic). So I started basically tracing my initial drawing (if it was feasible size-wise) onto my paper so I would have the proper proportions. Then I was discussing this with some other artsy people and I was surprised by some people's responses. There were some people there that did the same thing and then some people said it was cheating, "...you're not really an artist if you can't do it free-hand." Huh? Wha? I don't really care (and I'm going to continue to do this and no one can stop me, mwahaha!!) but now it's got me curious to find out what other people think about this and who else is doing this, apparently to some, dirty little deed.


04-05-2006, 07:24 AM
This discussion comes up every so often and as you say, opinions vary considerably.

I use a grid for my initial drawing to get everything close to the right place. I don't put in all of the details. Once I have it blocked in I remove the grid. If the paper will allow it, I use a light box and put the grid under the paper. If that won't work, I lay a grid I made of thread on top.


04-05-2006, 08:26 AM
"...you're not really an artist if you can't do it free-hand."

I've had that said to me before, of which I have COMPLETLY ignored! I use a grid for putting on the basic outline to my drawing and i KNOW i am an artist! I CAN freehand, but using a grid just makes the process a little quicker! After all, its not the outlined image that makes you an artist, its what you put "inside" those lines!!

You're an artist - don't let anyone tell you otherwise!! :)

04-05-2006, 09:34 AM
I absolutely agree with what the others have said. I've never used a grid, but I used to trace almost exclusively, at first even the details. Now, however, I'm doing my own drawings more and more. Now if I trace, it's after making my initial outline. Then I trace it onto the final piece of paper I'm painting on, mostly to avoid impressed lines (especially on Stonehenge), because I do erase a lot when I draw. It's part of the learning process for me. I think some people just have a better knack for drawing than others, but it doesnt mean that the rest of us are not artists. I used to feel somewhat guilty for tracing, but not any more. It's like Claire said it's what you put inside the lines that counts. I'm in favor of doing whatever you need to do to get the end result you want.

04-05-2006, 09:35 AM

Using aids (projectors, grids, light boxes, etc.) are important tools - as much as pencils, pens, paint, canvas, etc, etc. They are all integral to the creative process if you ask me.

Look at it this way: Most of us have hiding somewhere in the garage or basement a tool box full of wrenches, screwdrivers, sockets, hammers - you name it. However, not all of us can use those tools to fix our own car! Not all of us can take those tools out back and build ourselves a barn! And not everyone tracing an image to paper will be capable of turning it into a work of art! Those who say your not a true artist if you use projector or grid aids simply don't understand everything that goes into the creative process in order to compose a finished work of art.

The colored pencil illustration below was created using a projector to lay down the initial pencil drawing (at least the car, the emblem portion was free-handed). However, once that stage is done all bets are off because the real creative work begins. No less than seven separate reference photographs were used in order to achieve the effects I wanted in the final rendering. No grid or projector would have helped to accentuate the color, depth, shine, and contours that I wanted to illustrate - That's where the artist's creativity takes over. :wave:


04-05-2006, 10:10 AM
Rita, I feel the same as you do. I used to blow-up a picture and trace it, but that was a waste of ink and paper. I've used a grid, but that messes up the paper and I can't find any other way to work with a grid (I don't have a lightbox). So, I use a small projector. I used to trace the outline of the object and all of the highlights and shadows. Now, I get the outline of the object to make sure my proportions are correct and free hand the rest. These tools are wonderful learning utensils for an artist, and as you grow as an artist, you'll probably find yourself more willing to freehand stuff. However, with commissions I feel it's important to get everything absolutely correct, because, well you know how clients can be.

I have a student I'm teacing privately and the first time I showed her how to use a window to trace an object she was horrified! She had taken a Bob Ross workshop and a few other artsy workshops and was taught that tracing is absolutely cheating!!! I asked her if I gave her the outline of the subject we were working on (cat's eye and a hawk's eye) would she be able to make it look like the ref pic all by herself with her prismas? She just looked at me and said, "Heck no!" I rest my case.

I find it interesting though, how many people think you ought to be able to just whip off a picture of anything just because you're an artist. You don't know how many people, upon learning that I was an artist, wanted me to do a quick sketch of them right then and there. I had to tell them that I didn't do quick sketches or charicatures. I was not that kind of artist. Even many artists are guilty of thinking that because you are an artist you ought to be able to freehand anything you want to draw, and at a moments notice, or you're not really an artist. Don't let people like that get to you.

Hey, my brother saw me using my projector to get an outline of a person for a commission and he was horrified. He can't get over that I do that because it's SO cheating!!! Real artists don't do that!! Everytime he sees me dig out my projector he starts with the, "Oh here we go cheating again. So what are we cheating on now?" Makes a person feel real good. He loves my artwork though. Says he can't believe I did it or that it's colored pencil because it looks so realistic and like a painting. He just can't get over the projector part (and he's 55 years old - not a little kid anymore).

I agree with Dan. It's what's between the lines that is important. Next time you see those artist friends, tell them that even the masters used a grid. :D

Rosa Weitzel
04-05-2006, 11:26 AM
I am a Dan Reed supporter, I have a whole workshop full of tools, to cut stones, create silver, well a world of cool tools and one of them is my projector. I would not start to cut a stone, or make a piece of jewelry with out a pattern. I wont start a picture with the best pattern to create over in the beginning.
I use the computer most the time to blow up and enhance my photo, Oh! and by the way I do try to use only my pictures.
An artist is a craftsman and any and all tools are welcome.


04-05-2006, 12:34 PM
Well put Rosa!


04-05-2006, 12:48 PM
I have just recently started using a projector... I too sometime feels like it's cheating..I read about doing a grid but haven't tried it.. I'm afraid it will be too messy. I realize they are just a tools like everyone has said.. I'm just putting down a few outlines so the whole thing comes together like it's supposed to since I dont have extra time to draw and do it over and over again to get it right.

I do appreciate everyones insight into this because I've also wondered about this and if using the projector makes me any less of an artist.


04-05-2006, 01:38 PM
This is interesting. I tend to trace the outline of a work and any major contrasts in light and the rest I figure I'll fill in as I go. I like to see that many people use projectors (I can't afford one yet although I'd love to get one in the future).
When this person made the "...you're not really artist..." comment a few people looked at her like she'd been dropped on her head and I could tell that a few of them were offended by the comment. I have pretty thick skin when it comes to things like that (art, and who is considered an artist are pretty subjective anyway :rolleyes:) so I just smiled and continued babbling about art.
I like the tool analogy, very well put. It will be interesting to see if anyone is against using aids and why.

04-05-2006, 04:11 PM
I also use the grid method. I used to draw everything free hand and I learned to draw that way growing up. But now that I want to start doing art as a career i need to produce as fast as I can and if a grid saves me a couple hours of drawing then excellent!
Does anyone here get razzed for using photos to draw from? Recently I have started trying to draw my own work by using lots of different photos to come up with one drawing but I have had things said to me like "so and so said you were a really good artist...but wondered why you always use a photo to draw from instead of drawing it from your head...or " do you use a photo to draw from or just from memory" when I reply that I use photos the man then said "People who draw from imagination...now that's talent"
GRRRRR.....I thought pretty much everyone draws from some sort of a reference material. Don't they?
Sometimes I get so frustrated with non artsy people:rolleyes: Do you guys get questions like this and if so what do you say in response?

04-05-2006, 04:50 PM
How I get the image down on paper depends mostly on the end result I want. If I want an open, expressive feeling, and the image doesn't need to be extremely close to the original, then it's free hand. If it needs to look like the original just as much as humanly possible, I'll use whatever tool I need: ruler, grid, tracing, whatever.

The judgments and criticisms of others are hard to brush off (especially those of a family member), but it's easier when we ourselves are secure in the fact that being a "real" artist is dependent upon what we believe about ourselves, not on what others believe about us.


04-05-2006, 05:13 PM
Christina - Never been razzed for using reference photos. As I mentioned above, I used seven different photos as reference for my '51 Merc illustration. Matter of fact, when I get a commission from someone I always ask for as many photos as they can supply.

Regarding the use of grids or projectors, I too began utilizing these aids as a way to increase speed. I typically have a couple - or sometimes a few months backlog of commission work and these aids are the only way I can streamline my drawing process. I've been drawing cars since I was in grade school and I eventually got to the point where I could get my proportions down quite well. However, it took more patients and time to achieve it. So..........I guess you could call me lazy :rolleyes:

Susan - Good point. I'm happy with the work I produce and my customers are happy with it, so I guess that's all that counts.


04-05-2006, 05:32 PM
I've used a lightbox ( well a poor peoples version ). I put a sheet of glass on top of a lampshade and drew the image. I've also used the tracing method. I use it more for placement purposes than anything else. When I'm drawing from my head, it's all free hand. I don't think tracing is cheating. It's not the lines in CP art. It's all about color, values, shading, and blending..... Not about how you draw your lines. Besides, there has been a few well know artists ( given me some time and I could look them up ) who have stated that they could not draw.

04-05-2006, 06:23 PM
I'm new to portraits, I can get close to the person free hand, enough that you know who it is. I decided to trace one mainly because I am soooo slow and I thought it would turn out so much better!
Anyway the tracing looked so perfect. After I did the details and shading I look down at it and wondered who it was!!! It was from a picture of me and
I couldn't even tell. LOL!! So I say the art has to be between the lines.
I don't feel that I have cheated in anyway wheather I free handed, traced, used a grid or a ruler. Even if my last teacher thinks it is.

04-05-2006, 07:35 PM
Absolutely not! If you as the artist have sat down and composed the picture that you are going to render whether it be from photos, reference pictures or some other source what difference does it make as to how it was transfered to the support you are going to use. If someone feels that they aren't a complete artist because they didn't freehand sketch their design onto the paper, so be it. To me the final work is what shows the skill of the artist. Colored pencil presents a unique problem to the artist. You have to be extremely careful with your initial linework because it will either show through the colored pencil or in some cases not be covered by the colored pencil. When using oil or acrylic your lines (in most cases) are completely covered so it's not a problem to sketch all over the support. I do a lot of complicated mechanical pieces (cars etc.) To put the fewest lines on the paper to give me a good guide to go by here is the technique that I use. I have a Corel drawing program on my computer and I take my reference photo and make a line drawing of the major shapes. I print that out and scale it up to the size I need to fit my composition. I then trace it into my compostion where I want it. When I'm finished with my composition, cars, trees, houses etc. I make another tracing that is all cleaned up. I then take that to the local copy shop and have it blown up to the size I want. Now I take the idea that I got from Ann Kullberg's book and tape that copy to my patio door and tape the Stonehenge over it and begin transfering the lines. If this seems very mechanical, it is, but then working with colored pencils is a very mechanical form of artwork so where do you draw the line? With all the fabulous colored pencil work I have seen over the years I have never asked myself this question, " I wonder how he/she got their sketch onto the support"? I am looking at it and wondering how can I do this or that or what a unique viewpoint, or just how enjoyable it is to look at. So Rita I would say do whatever makes you happy, you are the artist, and if you are happy with the final result that's all that matters.

04-06-2006, 12:26 AM
It amuses me no end to see what some people think a "real" artist should or should not be able to do. Oddly enough, most of these people couldn't draw a stick, the only opinion that counts is your own. Some people think you're cheating if you trace, some if you grid, some if you use a drawing at all, others if you work from a photo, or if you work from anyone elses photo, still others if it's not done in a paddock in front of the darn subject. And NONE of them are right because there's no one way.

Think of it this way, if a photographer takes a beautiful photo of a beautiful woman with fantastic lighting, composition and colour is it art? Absolutely!!!, but did he create the beautiful woman? Did he put on her makeup? Was he there at her birth! Did he go with her to the gym in order to get the gorgeous physique? Nope.

If I saw that photo, asked the photographer if I could use it, then changed the lighting, altered the crop, gave her differently coloured eyes and clothes to suit my vision....why precisely would that not be just as much a work of art? I put every bit as much effort into the subject as the photographer did and then spend days working on creating it. Did I take the photo, no. Did I make the work my own, yes! His work of art is his own assisted by a beautiful subject, so is mine.

If an artist sits down with all their plein air gear in the middle of a paddock before a gorgeous mountain and paints a picture of it, is it any less the artists work when that artist didn't create that mountain or set the lighting or make the snow? NO!

A work of art is created by every paintbrush stroke or pencil stroke, by the heart and soul the artist puts into it, the same as the pride the photographer has in their work. Even something slavishly recreated, takes thought and effort and talent to create.

And as someone said earlier, the old masters used camera obscura, a primitive projector, for their work and who'd dare say DaVinci wasn't an artist?

For my self, I know I can draw every bit as well as a traced drawing, trouble is, it takes AGES to get perfect. Why on earth spend that time to achieve the same result I could in 5 minutes? I mostly draw freehand but I also trace or grid or whatever else works at times because it's faster and easier and I don't have time to waste. I'd rather spend the time getting the work created. I don't bake my own bread either, even though I could.

I know I can draw, who should I feel I owe proof of that to?

04-06-2006, 07:04 AM
Good responses! Maybe I should direct the person here that thinks "real artists" don't use aids! :D
Christina, I was just talking about this with a couple of people over the week-end (who I'm doing a few commissions for) and they weren't against using photos, they were just curious why I use them in my non-commissioned work. I explained that I do a realistic style and in order to achieve that, well, I need photos. It may be an almost complete replication of the photo or I may take several photos and combine things that I like, in essence "..drawing from imagination". It's not cheating or lack of creativity, it's ensuring that I do the best quality work that I can without skipping a beat. With people like the fella you dealt with I just smile and nod because they'll probably never understand art or the skill involved anyway.
I'm with catchlight, most non-artsy people couldn't draw a stick, much less even the most basic things that artists learn when they're starting out. If you'll excuse me, it's time for me to go "cheat" now. ;)


04-06-2006, 07:18 AM
Sometime back, I was whining here on WetCanvas about how when I tried to redraw a sketch or drawing of mine, it never came out the way I wanted it to. I wanted it to look exactly what I did in the first place. Well when told to trace over it, I was stunned to say the least. Isn't that cheating I ask?? Absolutely not came the reapply, try it you'll like it! I did and now one happy camper and going to check out one of those light boxes to boot. Azure

04-06-2006, 07:57 AM
What wonderful responses. Catchlight your response was perfect. I do feel better about using the projector. And for those of you who say they can't afford a projector... I got mine at AC Moore using a 40 percent coupon.. I think it ended up costing me $15. 00. Thought that was a good deal. It's worked wonders in speeding up my work . I really need help working full time and going to school at night plus having a family to care for. When I get a commission I just don't have the time to put it down on paper by hand and I know I could.

Is there anyone against it? and why?

04-06-2006, 08:32 AM
"People who draw from imagination...now that's talent"

That is very true - but it is a completly different talent!! Its like when someone says "you're not a real accountant if you can't do sums in your head"!! So similar kind of thing really....!

It bugs me too about non-art people's attitude about things like this! To create what us artists create is a very special thing we have, most of it is jealousy anyway!! They also don't understand how much time is involved either!! Its almost like they think we can just print it! :mad:

04-06-2006, 10:08 AM
I have to say that I've seen this topic brought up on other forums and the responses werent as open to tracing, lightboxes, etc. as this one. THANK YOU everyone who says they dont always draw freehand. I dont know why people are more impressed if you draw freehand. I want to be able to draw more things freehand, just because I want to. But if a composition is too complicated or I cant get it right, you bet I'll trace it and enlarge it on the computer. I also have a Corel drawing program and can turn the photo into a sketch. Then I blow it up and print the sketch on my printer and tape the pages together if I want to do a large painting. Doing this has actually helped me learn to draw better. I've been wanting to do a portrait, but didnt really want to trace it. Thanks to you guys, I'm going to try doing it that way.

04-06-2006, 09:35 PM
I've noticed that too Joann.

I think my main argument now would be, look at all the artists here who say they use aids (so far pretty much everyone I think) ranging from grids to projectors or tracing either exclusively or at least sometimes. Then have a bit of a look and see if any two of those artists produce the exact same image....even if they use the same reference photo and many of us here have when we've done the same image from the RIL. If that doesn't prove the point I don't know what would.

I'm proud of my sketching skills and I worked if anything harder to gain them than my painting skills, but I see them as two very different things. For instance, if I were producing a graphite drawing or ink etc I wouldn't use any tracing etc because those to me are about my drawing skills not my painting, if that makes sense and pretending I could sketch something that I really can't would feel like cheating. But that's just me, I wouldn't condemn anyone else for it.

Heck isn't art supposed to be about self expression, why is it anyone elses business but your own how you choose to do that? A collage made of cutup photographs is art, wire mesh crumpled up and displayed in a gallery is art because of what it represents to the artist and I doubt accurate sketching had much to do with that! (yes I know they probably used sketches in the conception of the piece and composition but the eventual outcome).

04-06-2006, 10:02 PM
I'm just going to make a little plug for people to rate this thread. It is loaded with some very useful information. :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

04-07-2006, 12:29 AM
I agree with everything everyone said. I used to do everything using a caliper and ruler and templates for circles and elipes. I still do that sometimes, but I also use a grid and after I have done the original layout, then I trace it onto the good paper. I waste (so I have been told) a lot of time and effort and paper trying to get everything the way I want it. But that is my way of doing things. It works for me and saves me a fortune on good paper costs.

THere will always be those people who say your are cheating because of this thing or that thing. I did a painting over the holidays and the man refused to pay me because he said I must have copied the photograph. Well, the photograph was 5x7 and the finished picture was 18x24, so I wonder how I could have copied it, and I asked him that question. Recently he asked me to draw his dog, and I told him NO!

You keep painting/drawing and enjoy the process. It is a wonderful way to express yourself, and there are wonderful people out there who will enjoy seeing what you do. So just ignore the jerks of this world. (IMHO)

04-07-2006, 01:16 AM
I don't post here, but I do browse often. I guess I'm one of those stick-figure drawers who thinks tracing is cheating, to me the result is a nicely rendered reproduction. It's kind of disappointing. Distorted features and exaggerated forms are so much more fascinating and able to put emphasis on features that are important. There are many drawings that are good, pretty, "looks just like a photo," but to me they just remain that, good. I may think, wow the artist's good, but that's all they'll remain, just good. Their art does not act as a catalyst for any emotional response, in me. If art is about self-expression, then why use photographic proportions? For self-impression? Drawing is as important as painting/coloring it in, and yes those initial lines are very important, but if you use lines produced by something else, where is the artist in it. I do believe many of you can do freehand, and with practice, it does become more quicker and automatic, but if you campare the freehand with reference, there will be variation, and that creates something truly amazing. Just my opinion

04-07-2006, 03:10 AM
I do understand what you are saying and I respect your opinion.
I find myself clicking out of threads that don't offer any emotional
response in me! I don't take the time to study them and that is a
I want a feeling that I can reach out and touch it, walk into it
or smell the rose. I don't care how the artist got there I just want
it to fell real to me. Guess I never ask myself did they trace that.
I bet you will find differences in any drawing wheather
you trace, use a grid or freehand.
But I guess this is what makes the world of art so great. There
is something that everyone can get into and we don't have to agree.:clap:
Thanks to everyone that posts their feeling, their wonderful
art work, and taking the time to teach people like me. I have had
a blast reading and looking:thumbsup:

04-07-2006, 07:46 AM
If those who are pointing a finger or shaking their heads over what they consider cheating, didn't rub two sticks together to create fire, wait for the stick to burn to the right shape and then create their drawings on the wall or roof of their caves, then they too are cheating. The essence of art is to make an object (picture) that the artist is happy with and if someone else gets some enjoyment or enrichment from this, then so much the better.

All that we use are tools to create. Some of us don't use the tools as well or in the same way that others do, but it is still a creation of art.

Just my 2 cents worth, as I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through this thread. Y'all keep right on creating!


04-07-2006, 08:19 AM
Well said John :)

04-07-2006, 08:51 AM
If art is about self-expression, then why use photographic proportions?
For me, art is NOT just about self-expression. It can have multiple purposes, one of which can be self-expression. Another is decoration. Another is communication of a concept. I prefer to not put the purpose of art in just one camp. The purpose of a given piece of art work is dependent upon the artist's intentions, the environment the art piece is "used" in (museum, home decor, advertisement, etc.), and other factors.

But even if the purpose is limited to self-expression, using photographic style and accuracy can also be a way of communicating a idea or concept. I am a rather precise person, and a precision drawing can express that aspect of my personality. I am also a very emotional person, so sometimes a very wild, loose drawing does a better job of "communicating" for me. Or, a piece could use the photographic style to "comment" on some aspect of a usually chaotic subject matter. Kind of a juxtaposition/contrast to further illuminate the wild nature of the subject.

I think the question of methodology (free-hand vs. use of drawing aids) gets tossed together with the questions of art's purpose(s), of desired artistic style, and of what is "creative", and in so doing, we (both artists and non-artists) totally confuse the issue.


04-07-2006, 09:32 AM
I think the question of methodology (free-hand vs. use of drawing aids) gets tossed together with the questions of art's purpose(s), of desired artistic style, and of what is "creative", and in so doing, we (both artists and non-artists) totally confuse the issue.
Well put Susan, this is the mindset I've always had (although I wasn't able to say it quite the way you did here :rolleyes:) which is why I was taken slightly aback by this person's comment.
To me art and being an artist is the ability to create something that others can enjoy as well as the artist being able to grow from one piece to the next. I do a lot of free hand drawing for my own enjoyment but I'm also doing a lot more commissioned work and I find that people usually want a replication of their photo which is why I think using an aid is useful, but that it doesn't diminish or undermine the skill of the artist. I've always thought of things such as projectors or grids or lightboxes as tools, the same way that a pencil and a paintbrush is a tool.
Olga, as far as things such as distorted forms and such go I can certainly appreciate your taste in art as I also find those types of images interesting to look at, but in terms of what I actually like to create I prefer to travel the realist route. I don't copy every line and detail, I just get the basic shapes traced in and then let my free-hand take over. To me it's still very much a creative process because I do tweak things along the way and my brain is still working and processing throughout the entire work. Is it that you feel that by tracing/ using an aid that the work loses the artist's perspective of the subject matter?


04-07-2006, 12:43 PM
Interesting replies here.

I just want to add that for me,using a projector gives me a brief outline of the picture. Even though I use the projector the picture doesn't come out exactly like my reference since the drawing part will always be slightly different but my proportions will be perfect which is what I look for and those I have done pictures for... A car should look like a car and not a bunch of blobs.... unless you are going for abstract art which is completely different.

Just my two cents again...


04-07-2006, 04:10 PM
John, tools may help create, but that's because cheating also helps create. For example, academic cheating helps get good grades. But using those sticks requires more eye-hand cordinations than tracing. It doesn't matter what tools you use to trace, it's still duplication. If "all we use are tools to create," then all unread but accessible books on one's shelf are things we know.

Susan, when I said "If art is about self-expression" I referred to some previous post that defined art to be that. To me, art is a catalyst to emotional response in a viewer, that is why a part of me has own definition to art, and another knows that everyone has their own definition.

04-08-2006, 04:34 AM
No one persons opinion on this can be called correct. We all have our own definitions of what art is to us. No one has the right to say "sorry nope that's not art", and no one has the right to insist their view is the only one.

What I'd like to know is, does this mean those who've worked incredibly hard to draw something freehand, and spent all day getting it right are going to be accused of cheating because their work is accurate? I know I can get my freehand drawings every bit as accurate as tracing could -often more so, when I use paint I often don't do a drawing at all and just start painting on the canvas, it depends on my mood, so when am I cheating then?

04-08-2006, 11:21 AM
Frankly, I think there's no such thing as cheating. Unless you're infringing on someone's copyright, I think you can do whatever you want. THAT'S ART!!

04-09-2006, 01:08 PM
and don't forget, some of the old masters used the camera obscura and the camera licida(I hope I have spelled them correctly). David Hockney has a book about this subject but, the title escapes me. Sincerely Peg

04-09-2006, 03:44 PM
Wendy, freehand and accuracy is not the same as tracing and accuracy. Cheating is not getting it right, it's the type of path to get it right. Just like with my school test example. Both a cheater and person who studies hard get good grades, so that makes them both honest students, right? If it's the result that matters.

Ok Peg, if the old masters did it before photography, I guess it's ok for everyone. But can you please tell me some a the works and artists' names? I've heard a little about it before and I'd like to know more.

04-09-2006, 03:55 PM
I think that if you are a bad artist, even if you trace a photograph you work will look bad. It is wise to draw freehand, so you get better. But there is no rule. I got much more flexible recently. I was taught not to trace, not to use a ruler, not to do many things. Now I think it doesn't matter. As long as you like how it looks and other people enjoy looking at it or even buy it. Everything else..who cares. Life is too short.
Oh I see one more Olga here. :)

04-10-2006, 07:11 AM
When I was first learning to draw, I was struggling with a portrait I was trying to do. I just couldn't get a likeness and that was my goal. I decided that I was going to get it no matter what and then see where I went wrong. I put some tracing paper over the reference and traced away. What amazed me was that the tracing wasn't any better a likeness than my freehand one! Obviously I was missing something in my "seeing." I never did get the likeness I was looking for and have long since forgotten who I was trying to draw. All I remember was the experience. What I learned was that tracing does not guarantee success.

I don't go after photo-realism but I do go after realistic representational art. Once I have the general shapes blocked in, I fill in with a slightly impressionistic style. I frequently simplify the background and I'm not concerned with exact matches of color (they would change in a different light anyway!) Blocking in using a grid helps me to reach my goal.

Sometimes people look at my work and say it looks just like the photo. That's not really a complement for me but if they say I have captured the soul of the animal I have drawn or they tell me it is even better than the photo, they have paid me a real complement.

I have not doubt that I could get good results working freehand but it would take me a long time. I don't enjoy the checking and rechecking proportions, they distract me from what I am trying to do. My choice is to do my initial sketch with a grid and then work freehand from there.

Just my opinion.

Great thread.


04-10-2006, 01:53 PM
I use grids and some times projector. I figure if Da Vinaci, Piccaso and Salvador Dali used the same method why should i not. It has been used for centurys and many artists have utitalized the method and for those na sayers just ecnore them and do what is right for you.
Hope I did not offend anyone

04-10-2006, 02:45 PM
Just one more thought and I will quit. I use the "tools" as mention and I also do freehand I enjoy both. Some times my grid works turn out more sureal then my freehand and visa-versa. In Artist Mag. it was a issue last year there was an article about a late 19th century artist I believe. One of the first women artists to be reconized buy the powers that be and it shows a grid made of wood and string about 2' x 2 ' it was held in front of the subject. I have also seen pictures of DaVinci sitting at a table drawing looking through the same kind of "tool". I wish I could find the article but look as I may I can not:rolleyes:

04-11-2006, 12:21 AM
What I mean Olga (Oziskin - better differentiate if we have two now!) is that I can get exactly the same results drawing freehand or tracing, my drawing is just as good, just slower. So what I mean is, if you can't tell the difference in the end result, if my skills are good enough either way, why should it matter? I have off days where I really can't be bothered spending hours trying to get a drawing right or I get stumped where no matter what I do I can't get the placement of a set of eyes right on a commission perhaps and trace that particular bit. But I couldn't look back through my work now and find which was which or remember for that matter.

I understand your point that if someone who cheats gets the same result as someone who studies, it's still cheating....but in this case it would very much depend on if what you were doing was cheating in the first place and that's pretty much down to interpretation.

I know that DaVinci was one of those who used Camera obscura, Michaelangelo too I think but I'm not sure. But if you do a search on camera obscura I'm sure you'll find loads of examples :)

04-11-2006, 09:55 AM
I've been reading over some of the posts about this and it prompted me to then question whether the use of a computer is "cheating"...or an aid?
For those of us that have any type of photo-editing program I'm sure we've used it to alter photos to suit the image we're trying to create...so would this be considered "cheating"?
Again, I'm inclined to think of a computer (like grids, projectors and the like) as an aid but it's certainly arguable that you can doctor an image much more readily and easily with a computer which, I suppose, could be construed as cheating. At the same time, if the means are there to help an artist get to their final product quicker then, why not?
Any thoughts on the use of a computer?

04-11-2006, 12:13 PM
I think the computer is just another tool. These days much of the illustration work we see in many publications has been produced entirely on the computer. My brother is a graphic designer by trade and is quite creative at what he does.......................it's art as much as what I do is art. He is using the computer where another artist is using water color, or another is using cut paper, or another uses clay, etc, etc.


Phil Smith
04-11-2006, 03:41 PM
I use the classic technique (for lack of a better description) of simply sketching in the shapes and forms, then measuring with bits of paper to make sure features and objects are more or less in the right place.

As I go along, I tweak and futz until the desired outcome is achieved. The technique is not precise and really hard to explain how to do. It can also lead to disasters.

The grid technique seemed to force me to be less creative, so I ditched that many years ago (high school). I think grids are used by artists who chose to replicate an image precisely, though not always. When it comes to drawing and painting, the artist benefits greatly from understanding the physical nature of things in order to capture the essence of form, value, mass, and so forth. This also allows you to draw and paint anything as long as you practice. Adherence to the grid or similar methods limits the ability of the artist to capture a moment in time, a flavor or mood or hue. It can limit "artistic wisdom", something that leads to a slow creative death.

I do, however, use quick perspective lines when laying out compositions, then erase these if done in pencil, or leave them in if doing thumbnail sketches.

I might also try the upside-down technique, which I understand forces the brain to reconsider forms without preconceptions.

07-27-2006, 03:13 AM
lately I been thinking Dali used the heck out of a projector

07-27-2006, 01:12 PM
Okay, I'm going to be unpopular and say that I think that using a projector exclusively is cheating. If you're doing it to save time but could do it right without it -- well, that's not so much cheating.

But I free hand everything. I traced a commission once and not only did I feel terrible for doing it (and if you feel terrible, maybe your conscious is telling you something?) but I had to completely fix it anyway, because when it was traced exactly, it looked all wrong.

I think it's slower to free hand when you're starting, but you get faster and faster, and you're a better artist at the end. If someone plonked something down in front of me and said "draw it, you fool! Draw it!" I could probably do a pretty good job of it, while I don't know if I could say the same if I used tools all the time.

Call me a fuddy duddy!

07-27-2006, 01:47 PM
I think using aids exclusively could be detrimental to fundamental drawing skills. 'Loosing the touch' so to speak.

To speed things up, aids are great. (I like to use grids for the purpose) but drawing freehand is such fun, and a skill I do not want to loose.


07-27-2006, 04:14 PM
As a teacher of drawing and painting, I have observed over the years the shift from hand-drawn preliminaries (by eye and by grid) to mechanically aided line drawings. As a student, it is important to experience each step in eye-hand development to sharpen skills and develop a personal style. If references are not processed through the artist a certain individuality is lost. Exact realism impresses the masses but can present cold, sterile impersonal images.
Seasoned artists use these conveniences to speed up this slow medium. I do not like to see beginners jump ahead of themselves before polishing their eye-hand skills.
Projectors, if not set up exactly parallel to the support, can present proportion and convergence errors in the initial drawing. A trained eye can detect this. It is helpful to know how to set up vanishing points to troubleshoot perspective glitches.
The "cheating" is not in the final art work but in the personal development of the artist. Jeffrey

07-27-2006, 05:31 PM
I started out by doing my pictures freehand but found that alot of the time I would get part way through the drawing and some of the details were off. Painting with colored pencils is alot of work and to put that much into a piece just to find some small detail off that through off the whole thing is frustrating. I started tracing on my last two pieces and putting in all the major portions. I'm enjoying it alot more and the results are much better because I can concentrate on the important details. I just purchased a lightbox and have not used it yet but I'm looking forward to using it. I sketch alot on the side when I'm somewhere where it's not convenient to bring all my gear.:)

07-27-2006, 09:43 PM
Quoting : "The "cheating" is not in the final art work but in the personal development of the artist. Jeffrey"

The best of summaries, thank you Jeffrey


07-27-2006, 11:05 PM
I just found this thread and it made me think about what I do and why. I think if someone thinks they should work on their drawing skills they probably should but for the right reasons. I believe most likely that is to improve the finished work. I sometimes use a grid for my acrylic paintings when I have done a preliminary sketch/painting and it is important that the composition I developed exactly fit the larger support. If I am working directly on the support I usually prime my own canvas and leave ample extra material wrapped around the stretchers so that I can change the dimensions of the finished work if that is what I think is needed after I have gotten well into the work. I know of one artist who repainted a major work on top of the original in order to move the composition over two inches. It horrified her agent who was waiting to sell it but it was what the painting needed.

When I use grid lines I draw them directly on the canvas lightly in graphite but donít worry if they show through here and there in the finished work. They are what they are. I have never used grid lines for watercolor, though. They just donít look right in the finished work (that I do). My primary concern right now is with working more.

07-28-2006, 12:00 AM
Interesting thread. I'm bring my comment from the debate forum over here. It's a response to Rockwell's use of a projector:

Here's the scoop on Rockwell. He himself admitted in one of his books that he used a projection device called a balopticon. He did it for convenience, time as well as other reasons. He also admitted how guilty he felt about using it calling it an "evil, inartistic, habit-forming, lazy and vicious machine" and had in his mind to use it less and less. He did think however that it had legitimate uses so he would always keep one on hand. He was an excellent draftsmen as you can see from his unprojected (obviously and intentionally distorted) images and I'm certain he didn't need it. I've used one in my work when I was doing commercial assignments and sometimes to check the proportions of my drawings. They do come in handy but they are dangerous if you become too dependent. You miss out on developing your eye and also the subtle expression of form. Oddly the people who can use them best are the ones who don't need to. You have to know how to draw well to use them well.

I've done everything. Some of my portraits are done completely freehand. I just set up the photo a sketch away til the preliminary drawing is perfect. This takes me a while and is my least favorite part of the process because all I'm trying to do is get it as close to the photo as I can (hair excluded). Then I transfer that drawing onto my black paper and go at it. Some or my preliminary drawings are lightly traced from a photo (or projected photo) to get the general proportions then the details are worked on freehand. I'll especially do this when the heads of the subjects are tiny like 2 inches making a few strategic guidelines so I know where things go. All are modified afterward because I can't resist tinkering with the human face and figure. I agree with Jeffery in that we do cheat ourselves if tracing or projecting is all we do. Often I'll do several pre-preliminary drawings freehand from the photos I'm using for a portrait. I sometimes really need to understand the shape and form of the person (and also to get a good tonal drawing of the subject) and doing a trace or a projection won't tell me that as well as a freehand drawing will. It forces me to understand what I'm working with and I believe makes for a better likeness. It also improves my hand/eye skill.

You have to understand visually what you're drawing and if you trace or project... giving little thought to the forms your working with... you're like the person in the weightroom lifting cardboard weights. I know eyes, I know mouths. I've studied hands. I understand the nose and how to draw it but I hate the laborious task of getting them all in just the right place. That's why I'll do some portraits completely freehand. Not for pride's sake (like some artists I've noticed do) but because I hate doing proportions and if I didn't do that I'd never improve that particular skill.

07-28-2006, 12:45 AM
I also use the grid method. I used to draw everything free hand and I learned to draw that way growing up. But now that I want to start doing art as a career i need to produce as fast as I can and if a grid saves me a couple hours of drawing then excellent!
Does anyone here get razzed for using photos to draw from? Recently I have started trying to draw my own work by using lots of different photos to come up with one drawing but I have had things said to me like "so and so said you were a really good artist...but wondered why you always use a photo to draw from instead of drawing it from your head...or " do you use a photo to draw from or just from memory" when I reply that I use photos the man then said "People who draw from imagination...now that's talent"
GRRRRR.....I thought pretty much everyone draws from some sort of a reference material. Don't they?
Sometimes I get so frustrated with non artsy people:rolleyes: Do you guys get questions like this and if so what do you say in response?

Tell him that's laziness. Takes a lot of effort to work purely visually trying to understand what you're looking at. You have to come to terms with color, values, edges, composition and form. Then you have to interpret it. That ain't easy. Takes effort and talent. ;)