Divide and Conquer: an Easy Way to Draw




About: Retired, doing art work now. Great. Have the time and the money to spend doing what I want to do.

I have been drawing for a long time and the struggle has always been to capture a likeness. While true art may call for total free hand drawing, most artists, and me included from time to time, need a way to aid the drawing process and help in rendering subjects. The grid method has been used forever but I I found it to be too tedious and unwieldy. A year or so ago I started using dividers in my sessions and find it to be extremely helpful, hence this instructable.  Basically, all we need are the dividers, pencils eraser, straightedge. cleaning brush and some time. Let's get started!

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Step 1: Basic Philosophy or Method

Basically what I do when I start my drawing is to decide on the position on the paper I want my drawing to end up, then make two lines on the subject's likeness and two exact lines on my substrate or paper. For the demonstration subject, I chose a photo of Jessyratfink, who had posted an instructable of herself made up to resemble Frida Kahlo, the Mexican artist. Thanks go to Jessy for allowing me to use her portrait!
     After positioning is done, drawing can begin. I start in the center of the face and work outwardly simply as a matter of choice. It all amounts to using the divider to take a distance on the subject, spreading the dividers to the dimension of that distance, then moving the divider to your paper and marking off the points.

Step 2: From Image to Portrait

I found Jessy's Frida to be a captivating subject!  Here, the dividers are shown, an alternative pair of compasses are shown, and a very basic explanation of the method is outlined.

Step 3: Draw Lines on Subject and Paper

To draw lines, place subject on drawing paper, and draw lines that bisect in the center. I have copied my subject, made it black and white, then trimmed it slightly so that the page is smaller than my paper. When I make the lines, a small mark is left on the paper underneath, and I can use these to complete the lines and this insures an exact duplicate of crossed lines. I usually draw the vertical line exactly  through the nose and between the eyes. The horizontal is lined up with the bottom of each eye.The lines do not have to be perpendicular, just make sure that the lines on the subject and your paper are exactly alike.

Step 4: Measure and Mark First Point(s)

Using the dividers, each reference point is transferred to the substrate of choice. We can take as many, or as few points, as we deem necessary. In time as drawing skills improve, more freehand work can be done and the dividers can be relied on less and less. In landscape drawings and paintings, the dividers can be used to establish difficult angles that depict perpective. Very useful tool!

Step 5: Portraits

A sampling of portraits drawn with this method. I find it useful in laying out paintings as well.

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    18 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Or more like im not sure if this works for smaller projects when I'm looking at something much larger for an idea or something. But thanks I am going to really try this out.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago

    Thanks for your comments: this will work with any size drawing large or small. To enlarge or reduce images you want to draw, a proportional divider is used. It is like the regular divider but is adjustable.......you can scale up or down using basically the same techniques depicted here. Any problems let me know.


    4 years ago

    This might be too late for you to see since I'm over a year late, but I really struggle with this and I'm trying to teach myself. The thing right now is having the idea and making it smaller size t


    4 years ago

    Thanks a bunch for this!! Like you I have been drawing for a LONG time. But have always had difficulty with realistic people. This has helped significantly!! Thanks again!! Love your instructables

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Now you don't have to make a grid, rimar! When I used grids, I would make a grid on a clear piece of plastic, like that which comes with notebook dividers, packaging material, etc. Taped to your drawing, it won't move, but you don't have to mark your original!


    5 years ago

    those birds are awsome