My name is Jonene Ficklin, and I'm a full-time wife, mom, writer, and professional artist. I've been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I use colored pencils, oil paints, and watercolors. I love what I do!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lesson 16 - Designing Your Drawing - The Grid

Okay, now we're ready to talk about designing a work of art. Good art doesn't just happen, no matter how practiced you are. Well, maybe it might, but not for me. I've found that putting a little thought into the design of my picture BEFORE I get started saves me many, many headaches down the road.

So, first, if you're serious about art, I highly recommend taking a class on photography, or researching its basic principles. It teaches you how to 'frame' your point of interest, while keeping the balance.

The same applies with art.

What you don't want is a boring, very well done picture. You want a work of art that is alive, interesting, and 'moves'.

I know. It can seem overwhelming. But here is one simple way to add interest and keep the balance.

You use the rule of thirds. Here is a grid, divided in thirds both horizontally and vertically.

Now, let's take a photo that we're interested in using for our next drawing. You want to decide what your main point of interest is. In this photo, it's the hawk.

We can use the photo as it is, or we can crop it. Let's say I needed to draw an 8x10 picture, so I make my grid an 8x10. Here, we put the hawk directly in the center of the grid. This is NOT necessarily good. It tends to feel boring.

Here is the cropped version we chose above, without the grid. Yeah, it's okay, but it could be better.

It's more interesting if you push the limits of centering. I've moved the grid so that the bird is still in the center, but just barely. You can place the bird anywhere in the grid, as long as it's touching (even if only by a little) the center grid, like below.

Now this is not a hard and fast rule. There are great ways to break it, but then we have to look at counter-balancing. For today, let's explore this one.

Here is the cropped version of the picture from above, without the grid lines.

Now you want to think about several things. This hawk is moving. Where is it moving to? Where do you want the eye to go? Let's shift the grid, so that the bird is on the left, leaving lots of room for it to 'move across the page'.

What do you think? Like it? Yes? No? Maybe? There is no wrong answer.  As you compare, you'll find some you like better than others. Explore a little, and let the bird say something by its placement on the page.

To me, the bird is moving right and up, so I'm going to shift the grid and put it on the lower left third, leaving lots of room for it to soar up and over.

Now this leaves lots of  blank space, which is interesting. Is it interesting enough, though? To me, it's got too much space and I miss seeing the cool rocks.

So, I'm going to reframe the picture, adding much of the rock into it, but leaving the hawk with plenty of room to move right.

Here it is cropped and the grid removed. What do you think? Are we there yet? I see cool rocks, lots of space (so the bird has room to move and it's easy on the eyes), and I know what the point of interest is.

Hm. You know what? I like one we did earlier. I want to see even more of the rocks. The bird is more interesting with their broken shapes and lines.

Here's my favorite pick, but I wouldn't have known unless I explored the possibilities.

What about you? Go ahead. Shift the grid around on your subject and see which one you like the best, then make a masterpiece out of it! And I'd love to see what you do.


  1. I love how you show us all the different possibilities. It's a great example of how we can tell our own stories with pictures or words. Great post.

  2. Leisha, thanks! Hopefully, the 'story' in the artwork evokes an emotion. That is success.

  3. That is fascinating how the picture totally changes with that grid. I learn such cool stuff here.

  4. Lydia, thanks! Same goes for your blog!


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