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Session 10

Coloring Outside — and Inside — the Lines

Use a grid to give shape and cohesion to your drawing

Expressive Drawing- Grids

A student at Steve Aimone's art workshop in North Carolina uses the grid technique to unify his painting. — Steve Aimone

In previous sessions we've explored how different kinds of visual structures can be used to unify drawings. We've seen how rhythm, repetition and color serve this purpose. Now, we'll explore how a series of underlying shapes can give a drawing the foundational structure it needs to hold together in a richly satisfying manner.

Foundational structure occurs when a series of shapes ties the drawing space together in rock-solid fashion. These shapes form a kind of interlocking jigsaw puzzle that anchors the rest of the drawing. You might think of it as a drawing beneath the drawing!

The most common form of an underlying shape structure is the grid. You all know what a grid is: a division of the drawing space into an orderly series of compartments.

Most commonly, this division is created through an evenly spaced series of vertical lines countered by an evenly spaced series of horizontal lines. These verticals and horizontals crisscross one another to form rows of rectangular or square compartments. Once this is done, the entire drawing surface is organized; compositional coherency is given, right from the start.

Then, within that framework, you're free do all kinds of things: use the compartments as containers, make connections between the compartments, join compartments together to make larger compartments, veil or cover up parts of the grid. These limitless possibilities make the grid a truly liberating experience. And if, at some point, you alter the grid so much that it begins to lose its ability to organize the drawing, you can restore as much of the grid as you need!

So let's get some experience working with this principle firsthand! Our challenge comes in two parts. In the first, you'll start off with a grid and work out of it. In the second you'll start with automatic drawing and develop the grid as you go along.

Next: Starting a grid. >>

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