Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Squaring up"

I mentioned "squaring up a painting to a student recently and they didn't know what I meant. Here is what that is.

Above is a sketch I did for a larger painting that I am working on. The painted sketch is on a panel 14" by 24" and I am squaring it up to 22" by 36" ( Yes, I know the larger is of an inch off, but I wanted an even number measurement in the large stretchers, They may make 21" stretchers but I had the 22" in inventory.). Painters have been using this method since at least the renaissance and probably longer. In the days of apprenticed labor, this would have been done for me by a studio boy.

I let the sketch dry, since I used Liquin that happened pretty quickly. Then I marked off 3" squares starting in the upper left hand corner of the sketch using a soft black pencil. Then I numbered the leftmost vertical squares and lettered the uppermost horizontal hand squares. That way I can find coordinates just like on a map or a game of battleship.

I stretched the larger canvas and put 3 1/2" squares on that, again starting in the upper left hand corner so that the two canvasses would be identical, but bearing different sized squares. Using the larger squares increased the size of the picture by 1 and 1/2" but if I had made the squares on the larger canvas 6" inches across I would have doubled it's size.

Tomorrow I will lay draw the painting onto the canvas using burnt sienna. I can look at my sketch and see for instance what goes on in square C6. This sounds pretty time consuming but actually it goes very quickly. If I skip this step when enlarging paintings I always regret it. I end up installing problems in the larger one that have to be dealt with later, at a cost in time.

I will probably alter the sketch as I refine it on the larger canvas, but my preparatory work should keep me from getting too lost.


rahina q.h. said...

very interesting post Stape. i notice how much detail and colour you put into your 'sketch': colours, why?

Philip Koch said...

That sketch looks pretty nice!

I happily used a "squaring up" grid system for years to enlarge my oil studies onto larger canvases. The last few years though I'm finding it easier to take a photo of study I want to enlarge and project it with a digital projector onto the larger canvas.

Just a few years ago digital projectors were prohibitively expensive ( I would borrow them from my art school). But like all the other digital hardware their price has dropped considerably.

billspaintingmn said...

I've also used the "squaring up" grid.
Since you've liquined your sketch, I hope you can remove the grid lines once you're finished.

Hey Philip! What in the world is a digital projector? I've never heard
nor seen one!

Libby Fife said...

I find the grid to be invaluable so thanks for talking about it. I don't have the skills to "freehand" things and I would like the scene to be reasonably accurate. My opaque projector is on its way but I am happy that I learned such a basic and necessary low tech skill first. Where is my studio boy anyway???LOL!

Jim Serrett said...

I always find it interesting how much of the craft of painting has been neglected by instructors over the years. I truly feel squaring up is part of basic drawing fundamentals.
I did a similar post on my Pochade site about squaring up and was surprised by the responses of people that had no idea of the process but just used projectors. My conclusion is that it is partially from a lack of drawing instruction and part a lack of effort to learn the craft. Keep this in mind; I spent thousands of hours stumbling around in the dark using high end projectors to layout murals. When I reverted back to the “old school” method of squaring up my layouts, I was much more selective making fewer reference lines. The cartoon/sketch was actually more accurate for painting than a highly mapped out tracing.
Anyway, It is skilled artist that are willing share their knowledge and insights that make
art on the web so interesting. And why I subscribe to blogs like this.
Thanks Stape

Barbara J Carter said...

I've always referred to it as "gridding up," but it's essentially the same thing. If I'm doing an odd size like 11x14" I'll often use rectangles instead of squares so they come out as even divisions of the painting in either direction.

Silvio Silvestri said...

Hi Stape, Besides the entertaining history, education and terrific art, could you expound on why we should know Romney or what can we glean and apply from these great master paintings from the past. ie, the great contrast in values, placement of the object of the spitoon on lower right in contrast to the figure extending up and to the left. This is mass distribution is creative, useful manner. Or soft edges used here to create depth, etc. I know you know these things--share your insigts more into whey this is a great painting. Thanks, Silvio

Mike Thompson said...

If you have a drafting program that has ''layers'' and allows importing photos or scans, you can grid anything to any scale you want from any scale.

Essentially, you make a grid that will fill the size image you want to print - the larger the better. Say you have a photo of a 9 x 12 original and want to make it 18 x 24, then draw a 9 x 12 grid that will fill most of a 8.5 x 11 piece of printer paper in the drafting program. Next import the photo of the image to copy. Drag it by one corner to the corresponding corner of the grid and resize it to fill the grid from that corner to the opposite corner and then set the photo layer to be BEHIND (or underneath) the grid layer and print it. Instant gridded image.

You can use the cheap paper and even do it in black and white if you just want a gridded image to draw from.

Draw a grid with the same number of lines on the target canvas and work to reproduce each grid section as Stape has detailed.

If you want to crop the original because the end canvas is a different height to width ratio, size the photo appropriately and just drag the photo around until you have it positioned under the grid where you want it and only transfer the gridded area. (You can crop away the unneeded parts of the photo and just print the grid area, or some programs like AutoCAD allow you to set the print window to be just the portion of the whole drawing you want to print.

If you don't want to mark up your original and don't have a drafting program, then make a grid on a transparent piece of plastic and lay it over the original. In order to avoid wearing the lines off, you can score the plastic with a sharp point and lay ink in the grooves that will not wear away. These thin scored lines work better over smaller photos.

High tech makes old tech even better, sometimes.

William R. Moore said...

Did you intend to say 3.5(8x3.5=28)
or 4.5(8x4.5=36)inch divisions for the 36 inch side of the enlargement? Thanks for your blog, enjoy very much.

Terry said...

Hi Stape,
I use this method all the time for murals, I tried using a projector, but found too much distortion in the enlargment and squaring up was actually faster. Last summer I did a 14'x 27'wall, drew my layout on a legal sized paper, 1"squares = 3'blue taped squares on the wall, kept my composition perfect. I am 5' tall so I had to climb off the ladder and run across the restaurant to see it completely.
I recently was shown a new projector that is supposed to project distortion free. It is in the 1k range, uses a grid over the picture that can be adjusted on the surface to correct any distortion. (If I had an extra
1k, I would rather come see you at snowcamp!) Bottom line for me squaring up gives me a better result, versus tracing, as I get more movement and gesture into my composition without losing the big shapes.
Thank you always for this great blog! Terry

Steven W. Dunn said...

Never new the term "squaring up". I have used a proportional grid for years to reduce or enlarge.
Thank you so much for your blog. I learn much and enjoy your humor and intelligence (yes, I said intelligence!).

Stapleton Kearns said...

I hope to make the time back onm the big one. Lots of planning up front should make the job go quickly.I hope.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I own too much stuff already. I am going to pass on the digital projector.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I don't care the surface of the sketch looks like I painted it on an alligator. It is labored looking.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Low tech is efficient in a way. I don't need a projector.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I agree also I refine the drawing during the transfer some too.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I could use rectangles but it complicates the math so.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I will do a post on your question soon. Thanks

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am sure all that works but it makes me tired just thinking about it. I suppose I could learn all that, but squaring things up works fine for me. All of you computer lovers take notice though this does sound like a good way to go.

Stapleton Kearns said...

William; You are right, 4.5 is correct.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have found that too. I refine and simplify the drawing some during the transfer process.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks. I am intelligent enough but mostly I am a worker!