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Grid Drawings: Anamorphic Art

Lesson Plan by: Michal Austin and Judy Decker
Grade Level: 7 through 9
Unit: Drawing/Renaissance Art
Project: Grid Drawing (and Anamorphic drawing)
Project: Surrealism - Grid Drawing/Painting (below)
Anamorphic Art - Online Resources below
High School Adaptations - by James Ray - Bryan High School
Have some fun! Start with Greg Percy's song "Are You Serious?" (Dali)


Information on Grid Drawing
"The underlying idea of transferring information from one grid to another has a long history in both mathematics and art. When the blank grid differs from the original grid, for example, a drawing can suffer intriguing distortions. In art, the result is sometimes called an anamorphic picture. Mathematically, you're looking at the results of a type of transformation or mapping.


To create one sort of anamorphic picture, you start with a piece of paper ruled into square cells and another ruled with the same number of trapezoids. Draw your picture on the square grid. Then carefully copy the contents of each square of the original grid to the corresponding trapezoid of the other grid, stretching the lines of the drawing to make sure everything fits together. You end up with a distorted version of the original picture. Interestingly, if you now look at the final drawing at the proper angle from the edge, it appears undistorted.


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These are examples of distorted grids - done by Michal Austin's students.


Artists have long used the same idea to create visual puzzles. In such examples, a viewer sees an object correctly only if he or she finds the right angle at which to look at the picture. One of the most famous examples is in a painting called "The Ambassadors," (Archive) made by the German artist Hans Holbein, the Younger (1497-1543). It shows two men standing in front of tables overflowing with books, instruments, and globes. At their feet, the artist painted a weird shape that turns out to be a grinning skull when you hold the picture at a slant and view it in the right way.


Various artists have tried more elaborate schemes. It's possible, for example, to draw or paint a picture so that you can tell what it is only if you look at its reflection in a mirror shaped like a cylinder or a cone. Other pictures must be reflected in shiny spheres, mirrored pyramids, or other reflecting shapes to reveal their true identity." (This information has been copied from Science News Online written by Ivars Peterson. Thank you Mr. Peterson - you are helping many students)





* Gain appreciation for Renaissance art
* Develop math skills in transforming a work of art
* Develop observation skills
* Work on line quality



Transparencies photocopied with one inch grid -- Rulers. (for making straight line grids) -- Drawing Pencils. -- Magic Rub Erasers. -- 12"x18" (30 x 46 cm) Drawing Paper. --choice of medium -- small art prints or photocopies.



1. Present an overview of Renaissance Art (Florence: Cradle of the Renaissance. is a good one)
2. Review some of the most noted artists of the Renaissance, characteristics of art, themes in art - review what it meant to say "Man is the measure of all things" - What were Renaissance artists trying to show in their work.
3. Show video "Masters of Illusion [VHS]". - pay close attention to anamorphic art
4. Demonstrate drawing grid onto 12"x18" (30 x 46 cm) paper - distort with waving lines, trapezoidal shapes, or elongated rectangles - or other distortions. (Note from Judy: for my units, students did not distort the grid. Our grid drawings were used as a base for a Renaissance parody painting)
5. Demonstrate enlarging the postcard size print or photocopy block by block.


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This drawing was used as a base for a Renaissance parody painting. 


1. Select post card size print (or photocopy) for enlarging. Tape transparency with one inch grid over post card. Note: Student can draw one inch grid directly onto photocopies if desired.
2. Enlarge grid onto 12"x18" (30 x 46 cm) drawing paper. Enlarge at a scale of 1" to 3" - or 1" to 4". Use wavy lines or stretch the grid for a distorted drawing (anamorphic). Example to the right is regular grid - a scale of 1 to 3 was used (paper was 12" x18" - images at right not to scale)
3. Enlarge post card image or photocopy block by block -- paying close attention to line quality and make close observations what is in each block.
4. Note from Judy: In my classes, students wrote a critique about their chosen Renaissance art work.


Tip from JC (18 year old): Take a 2" cardboard - cut a 1" square in center with an X-Acto Knife.. Use this as a "window" to focus on only one square at a time. JC also suggested working with the original upside down. This student got the idea for a wise art teacher.



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