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Cathleen Lengyel > Scribbles > Artist Help > Basics > Isn’t That Cheating?

Isn’t That Cheating?

It would seem that many people, usually not artists, have some definite opinions the “rules” of art. Today, let’s discuss the rules….
  • Rule #1 THERE ARE NO RULES IN ART.
Well that was easy enough, right? Seriously, when it comes to creating art there are no hard fast rules as to how it should be created.    Yet time and time again I hear people ask, “isn’t that cheating?” when it comes to using tools while creating artwork.  It seems more prevalent in regards to drawing mediums.  It’s no secret that I use a grid system when sketching out my drawings.  I didn’t always use grids.  I can indeed draw freehand quite well.  However, I was introduced to the grid method by an art professor many years ago.  It’s especially handy when you want to make your drawing larger or smaller than the original.  Yet I have heard so many people say you’re not a true artist if you have to use a grid.  Really?  I would love to challenge some of those naysayers to take a grid and draw a photo realistic drawing.   Also, it’s a well known fact that Leonardo Da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, and Van Gogh are just a few of the great masters who used the grid method.  Many portrait painters of old would sit behind a frame with horizontal and vertical strings which created a grid.  They would look through the grid at the person they were going to paint and sketch onto a grid drawn on their canvas.  Would you call Da Vinci a cheater?   A grid, like many other things, is nothing more than a tool which the artist can choose to use.  Another tool that is useful is the proportional divider.    
Accurasee Proportional Divider
Accurasee Proportional Divider
A proportional divider can be used alone or in conjunction with the grid method.  It’s excellent for double checking size and location of areas on a drawing when you are increasing or decreasing from the original photo’s size.  I have seen some artists use a proportional divider while drawing a still life.  It’s an amazing thing to watch and takes skill to be certain! Another method is to use a light table.  You would place the photo on the light table with your drawing paper on top.  The light shining through the papers allows you to trace the main outlines you would need.   It’s sounds super easy, but it also takes some skill.  You need to know  what to trace and what not to trace and how to keep a light hand while tracing!    Lastly there’s the option of using a projector.  You would simply project the photo image onto your canvas and trace.  Again, easier said than done.  Still many artists use this method. I use the grid and proportional divider (when needed).  I used a light table many years ago when working in a print shop, but haven’t used one since.  I have never tried using a projector.   All in all, none of these methods are “cheating.”  They are all simply tools.  These tools help with the drawing/painting you’re currently working on, and over time they help improve your accuracy when working free hand.   Never be afraid to use tools that help you improve your work! Until next time, Keep Creating!    

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