You heard it right! The system I’m using in my portrait class, as taught by Richard Kirk, was first developed by Albrecht Dürer over five hundred years ago. “Dürer’s device was an empty picture frame with vertical and horizontal strings crossing at regular intervals,” and that’s straight from the artist’s mouth.
Kirk’s teaching method is similar to Dürer’s. Using a system that he created, Kirk’s grid principle has nine elements with each element subdivided into four quadrants. “This in effect creates 36 elements that help you organize your work at a glance without a complicated numbering system,” Kirk said.
1. Most artists can’t or don’t have access to live models and so work from photographs. Even with a model, photographs are a necessary supplement.
2. Photographs are flat and sometimes retouched or distorted.
3. The grid system allows for more accuracy and control.
In addition to photographs, the artist must take other factors into consideration. A study of the eyes and face can show where the camera was poised, where the light source is coming from, and describes how artificial light effects skin color and shadows.
In class, I’m doing a portrait of my granddaughter, Lyla, using a photo I took of her last summer. The light is coming from windows and a glass door on a sun porch and from the overhead light in the room. Additional light may have come from the flash on the camera.
Lyla’s left shoulder is consumed with light and not distinct, I will have to fill this in. Between the artificial light and the ink on my printer, the skin tones will have to be altered. Using a grid on Lyla’s face, I was able to enlarge the drawing to fit the 12x16 canvas. I’m using a canvas sheet that will have to be mounted to a frame. In my next class, I will begin applying color and oil paint.