Day 81: On the grid

Grids: Some drawing teachers refuse to use them. Perhaps they believe that drawing something wrong, over and over, is better because it’s unaided.

Grids can be used to scale an image: Take a 5 by 7 print of a photo, and draw lines dividing it into 35 one-inch boxes. Then draw 35 three-inch boxes on an 18 by 24 sheet of paper. Copy the photo, one grid at a time.

Grids can be used to help you see the picture plane – to bring a 3D world onto a 2D piece of paper. Try it: Draw grids on a window pane (with wipe-off marker), then draw the view from those grids, and you’ll automatically have the perspective right.

Grids: Do you think it’s cheating? Well, da Vinci, Vermeer, van Gogh and many other great artists used grids. And so did the ancients. Modern artists use them as a tool without feeling their ethics are compromised.

Grids: For me, a grid takes the stress out of drawing. It allows me to relax into the lines, form and tone as I forget about getting the proportions right. If you truly concentrate on each grid, one at a time, you’ll basically be drawing a series of miniature abstracts.

And yet.

Grids are tiresome. Drawing all those lines and then erasing them. Copying with precision. It can feel very stifling.

Yes, it’s an exercise, one that gets you accustomed to seeing perspective and proportion. It is an aid to being accurate.

But, it doesn’t make your art real. Only makes your drawing realistic.

Realism is not authenticity. It can be a tool for achieving authentic expression, but it does not, by itself, communicate anything other than the information of the lines.

Real art contains the spirit of the artist.

I can’t help but relate this to journalism. I grew up professionally with the sacred precept that being “objective” gets us closer to reproducing Truth in our stories. Get both sides and quote them accurately, throw in some background and quantifiable facts, and you have done your duty.

No. No, that’s not right: because objectivity is a myth. Every being that has perceptions is subjective. Every story produced by a subjective being is subjective.

Rather than trying to be objective, we can aim to be accurate. But this, too, is inadequate. (See, Gender 2.0)

Accuracy is only the beginning. There’s the story, and there’s the Truth.

Truth lives off the grid. It can’t be captured in boxes.

Truth – and art – lives in the flow.

Today’s penny is a 2013, the first year I drew with a grid.

Day 81 2013

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