Altered Grids- Two Lessons, grades 6-12

Altered Grids - Two Lessons

Submitted by: Mark Alan Anderson
UNIT: Grid Drawing - Surrealism
Lesson: Altered Grid-Twisted Reality
Grade Level: 6 - 12



Surrealism, Contour Drawing, Grid, Altered Grid, Cool & Warm Colors, Complementary Colors, Organic Shape, Line, Space



TLW develop hand/eye coordination and improve observational drawing skills. TLW make intentional choices from random relationships of objects. TLW visually articulate the abstract concept of Surrealistic form.



Drawing Pencils., Kneaded Rubber Erasers., Rulers. / straight edge, 12" x 18" (30.5 x 46 cm) white Drawing Paper., access to a Digital Camera, computer, and printer. Optional: various paint or drawing medias of the student’s choice for completion of the work.


MoSTEP Standards

FA1 Process and techniques for the production, exhibition or performance of one or more of the visual or performed arts. FA3 The vocabulary to explain perceptions about and evaluations of works in dance, music, theater and visual arts.



Reproductions of various Surrealist works are hung around The Creativity Lab. We begin with an exploratory discussion of the reproductions, specifically: "What do you see?" As with Cubism, be prepared for laughs and confusion, but usually students are fascinated with artists like Dali. Surrealism is a tough nut to crack with learners if you want to get into many of the actual motivating factors of the original Surrealist groups. I like using this lesson to bridge the gap between observation and initial understanding of the Surrealist concept. (Plus, it’s a lot of fun!) This is a twisted way to approach a standard grid-drawing exercise. Before beginning, learners should already be familiar with (and probably already bored with) grid-drawing.


1 Using a digital camera, learners will make close-up portraits of each other. In Photoshop (or similar), open each image, use the "posterize" feature to separate the image into layers of flat values. Print out in black and white. (Photoshop is avaiable at the Adobe Education Store


2 Using a ruler, measure and mark a grid onto the surface of the print. Make sure that each grid is an equally sized square. I find that it’s easier to mark each line along the top with a number or a letter and each line along the left hand side with a number or a letter. Like the game of Battleship, this makes locating intersecting lines much easier and more accurate.


3 On the 12" x 18" (30.5 x 46 cm) drawing paper, mark off an equal number of measurement marks along the top and left hand edge. Be sure that you make the same number of marks on the top and left as you did on the gridded print – just larger. What we want to do is to enlarge the original drawing to the maximum size it can be on the 12" x 18" drawing paper. Make the measurement marks but DO NOT create the grid yet!


4 Here’s the twist: Instead of making perfect horizontal and vertical grid lines, lightly draw in your grid lines in a very loose and organic manner. They can be as close or as far apart as you wish so long as you do NOT allow any horizontal lines to cross over another horizontal line; do NOT allow any vertical lines to cross over another vertical line. When you are finished you’ll find that everyone has a different looking grid.


5 For the drawing, follow standard grid-drawing procedures: observe and compare each grid section of the original print, translating the information onto the enlarged grid drawing paper (make a contour drawing use a light pencil stroke at first). Because you are transferring to an altered grid, your will be engaged in both observation and translation. Your completed contour drawing may look similar to mine (see example at top right.)


6 From here, the art teacher has a lot of choices. The resultant drawing is an altered view of reality so I like to point out that it looks very unlike reality (especially to those kids for whom "real" seems to be everything!) and to complete the work in very unreal colors. Because the posterized print has been separated into various flat values, you can use this as a reference point to divide colors or patterns in a way that represents more of a surface design than a rendering. Or have the drawing competed in a single, bright monochromatic approach. Or use some other specified color scheme.


7 I like that this lets kids stop focusing on "real" and just enjoy the process of artmaking. I think you’ll get into it as much as they do!


Assessment Did the learner effectively use color, line, and shape expressively in their art making? Does the learner use subject-specific language to communicate and inquire? Does the learner demonstrate greater confidence and/or facility in observational sketches?


© 2005 Mark Alan Anderson - lesson can not be published elsewhere



Submitted to Getty TeacherArtExchange by: James Ray - Bryan High School, Texas

Some High School Adaptations for Grid Drawing

2 Here is a distorted drawing of one of James' students. He designed a four by four grid over the picture. Then made a distorted circular grid - Four circles by four pie shapes.



Quality Drawing Paper., choice of Crow Quill Pens. and India ink. or Drawing Pencils.. Extension: Include a value study in this project.


From James:
Some of my students are Distorting the grid into a circular grid. Where the rows are the overlapping circles and the columns are the pie shapes. (some examples of circular grids may be found on the Math connections site listed below)


Option 1: Simple Enlargement Create a collage of 4 to 10 pictures. Student independently chooses subject matter. Draw grid on collage into equal spacing. Enlarge grid to fit on 18x 24 drawing paper. Transfer picture by drawing to scale. Match value and texture of the original.

Option 2: Foreshortened View Find a source of interest. Draw a grid on source into equal spacing. Design a distorted grid by making the spacing uneven or parallel. Using the correct proportions. Match value and texture of the original.

Option 3: Blotchy Distorted View Find a source of interest. Draw a grid on source into equal spacing. Design a distorted grid by DELETING spacing and enlarging details of deleted section or enlarging other sections to fit in empty space. Change the order of the tiles. Draw picture to fit into the grid using the correct proportions. Match value and texture of the original

Option 4: Wavy Distorted View Find a source of interest. Draw a grid on source into equal spacing. Design a distorted grid by making the rows, columns or both making the straight lines wavy. Design the grid into a circle where the circles define the rows and the pie shapes for the columns. Draw picture to fit into the grid using the correct proportions. Match value and texture of the original.


From Kevan Nitzberg - High School Another subject that worked with high school students was one that initially was based Chuck Close and his video on his portrait paintings that are based the grid method. I took digital pictures of my students that were quite good (digital cameras have come a long way since they originally were introduced to the scene), and printed them out on regular copy paper.


Using acetate from a roll that normally is used for protecting art work in a mat, I used a fine point permanent marker to create a 4 X 5 inch grid (1" squares) for each student to place over their printed out self portrait. They then had to blow up their image 400%, so that each grid on the final drawing was 4" square (4:1 ratio). The students had to first draw the outline of their heads keeping track of where the line that denoted the resulting shape existed in each of the squares that it ran through.


Once the outline was done, they then had to look for the highlights and the shadows and draw them lightly as additional shapes in their compositions. The lightest and the darkest areas were noted to provide them with a range of contrast from light to dark. As the background in each portrait was dark due to the lighting that I used in the initial taking of the pictures, their backgrounds were also to be done dark to increase the contrast in the drawing.


The assignment was done in pencil, working with a range of HB to 6B leads. The results of this assignment were quite good, but I wanted my students to push the portrait idea further and so a 2nd assignment was to be attended to where they had to concentrate on the emotional aspect more than the likeness in the composition. Rather than simply using pencil, they used pastels to work on this assignment. I retook their pictures having them express the emotion that they wished to convey in their drawings, and then had them work with the grids again, but this time they had much more openness in terms of how they wished to deal with the images.


In preparation for working on this assignment, they had to create a collection of portraits done by other artists using the Art Collector feature in Artsconnected, and see how a variety of artists used exaggeration of various elements and principles of art to convey feeling. The results of this assignment were extraordinary as students used color, line, repetition and exaggeration of features, 'styling' suggestive of other artists' work (most notably Picasso), and even collage to create the 2nd portrait. The freedom to express and create that was unleashed in this assignment paid off huge dividends in terms of the results that were realized. The excitement of the students from being able to successfully complete both of these assignments was quite tangible.


Distorted figure study from Carolyn Patton:

I spend a good deal of time working with my Art II students to help them master drawing the human form and face. This is an assignment my students enjoy. Once the distorted figure is drawn, the project can be developed in several different ways.


Project: Distorted figure study

Select a head or figure study that you have drawn previously. If you have no drawing that you wish to work with, begin by creating a new drawing. On the original work establish a grid. To do this fold the image in half horizontally, then in half again horizontally. While folded, fold it in half vertically, then in half again vertically. This will establish a grid. On a new sheet of paper that is either wider or taller but not the same, fold the same grid as you did on your original piece. It will have the same number of squares as the original piece but they will be shaped differently. Begin your new work, drawing what you see in the first square on the original piece, in the first square of the new piece, stretching it to fit. Continue this process until you have the whole distorted figure reproduced. Your drawing may be shaded as a value study, or painted in your favorite medium.


Specific palettes - using only warm colors or cool, primary or secondary or monochromatic, make an painting assignment and add to the distorted feel of the figure.


Anamorphic Art Online Resources

"ANAMORPHIC IMAGES are those in which the painted image of an object has been distorted in such a way that the object becomes recognizable only by viewing it at an oblique angle or in some curved reflecting surface. Anyone who has visited the National Gallery in London might have seen Hans Holbein's painting "The Ambassadors," in which an odd shape at the bottom of the canvas is seen to be a skull when viewed almost edge-on. Anamorphic images were something of a rage in the Renaissance, and Leonardo and Durer tried the technique as part of their studies of perspective. An eighteenth century innovation was to create anamorphs of paintings by famous artists.


A seventeenth century book by Jean-Francois Niceron worked out the geometrical algorithms for producing anamorphic art (the planar and conical cases are pretty easy but cylinders are quite challenging), but this mathematical connection was lost through the centuries. Now, scientists at Guelph University (Ontario, Canada) have re-derived the transform equations needed for producing anamorphs. (Hunt, Nickel, Gigault, American Journal of Physics, March 2000" (from American Institute of Physics)



NOTE: These links were all active when lesson was put online. Report broken links and suggest additions.

Masters of Illusion [VHS] information.


Poster: Anamorphic Painting by Edward Ruscha.
Art of Anamorphosis

Anamorphic Art (Archive) | What is Anamorphic Art? (Archive) | Make Anamorphic Art (Archive) from Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School.

Anamorphic Art (Archive) from
Anamorphosis and the Eccentric Observer
Grid warping (Archive)
Anamorphic Art Mirrors
Hans Holbein "The Ambassadors" - high quality image
What is an anamorphic image? (Archive) - Uses a poor image of the Ambassadors

More info on Hans Holbein's The Ambassadors
Hans Holbein: The Ambassadors lengthy critique
Erhard Schon - Vexierbild (Archive) or Puzzle Picture (1535). a plane anamorph

István Orosz (Archive) - Hungarian artist. See his images (Archive) . See Art of Orovitz (Orosz)
Scroll down on this page for another example by Itsván Orosz - "The Well" - Reveals Escher-like images.
Getty Devices of Wonder (using a cone shaped mirror)
Cone shaped mirror image (Getty Devices of Wonder Exhibit)
Angel image plane anamorph. From the Community Bridge mural project in Frederick, Maryland, near Washington D.C. See what the angel looks like from the proper angle.
Art of Kelly Houle (Archive) - Contemporary artist
Art and Optics: Sidney Perkowitz page: Shows example is "St. Jerome Praying" (scroll down)
Some examples of Plane Anamorphic art
A book you might want to look up:
Sandburg, Carl. Arithmetic. - New York: Harcourt, Brace, Javanovich, 1993. ISBN 0-15-203865-5.
Ted Rand has illustrated Carl Sandburg's poem for children, Arithmetic, as an anamorphic adventure. The images in Arithmetic can be seen normally by viewing them from an indicated angle or by viewing their reflection in a cylinder.



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