Skip navigation

I was so excited about the exercise from creative drawing class that I wanted to try a distorted grid with watercolor. I first marked off my photo reference in a grid with all spaces of the same dimension. Thank-you to wet for the photo reference of  a bloodhound.

Next I marked off a piece of cold pressed 140lb Arches with the same number of lines vertically and horizontally as I used while creating the original grid. In this step I angled lines every which way to distort the size of the spaces. Be careful to not cross  vertical lines with other vertical lines or the horizontal lines with the other horizontal lines. I then drew the image, one space at a time, onto the distorted grid following the spaces from the photo grid. This led me to have to make decisions as to how I was going to fill that distorted space with all the information in its’ corresponding space in the photo. It led to a distortion of the image in the photo as you transposed it to your new grid. I had furthur distorted the image by changing my format from a vertical one to a slightly lengthened square.


In the above picture you can see the divisions of space that I had to work with.  I decided not to connect the line from the nose or the one in the ear and several that didn’t match up to their corresponding lines in the next space over. I like what it added to my image.  I also liked the fullness of body this format and grid gave my bloodhound. At this point, I could have erased the grid lines and finished the background but instead chose to leave them in so the finished piece would show the whole process of creating this image.


The above is my finished painting using a distorted grid.


  1. Always a learning experience, thanks Les

  2. This is amazing, I love how it came out! I can’t wait to try this. 🙂 You always have such great ideas.

    • Thanks, Littlelynx. I want to do some more of these, also, and pick some funky subject material to use with it.

  3. this is really interesting.
    thanks for sharing leslie

  4. When I first looked at the drawing I recoiled in horror but then when I read your description and then looked at the last watercolor. I was transported to a place where I saw the reflection of the dog as if in a fractured mirror or a mirrored building and it was compelling and engaging. … talk about being put in the mind of the artist. Good study. I’m going to have my students do it!

    • Thank-you, Jay. It makes me feel good to know that I came up with something that your students might be able to benefit from.The one thing that they have to watch out for is to not cross their vertical lines with each other or the horizontal lines with each other. My students wanted to connect lines, but you can’t if you want to come up with distortion. They have to render it space by space. My students said they really had to concentrate on the direction of line in the distorted spaces and pay attention to everything they had to get in each individual space.

  5. Hi Leslie,
    Another great lesson from you and another great painting.

    Thanks so much for “teaching” all of your blog fans. This looked like a really fun exercise and I wonder if this is how Picasso got started? : ) I must give it a try. I don’t have your drawing skills and very often my normal grid paintings inadvertently end up like a distorted grid painting. But at least we have you to turn to and go back and re-check the lesson to see where we strayed.

    I am still laughing that Jay “recoiled in horror”. I think there’s a pill you can take for that. I’m glad to see he’s recovered.

    • Thanks, Carol. This was fun to do. I want to do more of them. It was good practice and I really had to pay attention to each grid shape because you have to distort the values and lines in it to make shapes fit. One of my students read that Picasso would actually shift his position when painting figures and just carry on from a different viewpoint in the same painting.
      I’m laughing about the horror thing too.

  6. WOW! I really like this exercise. This is the first of the kind I have ever read about. Thanks for demonstrating and explaining it here. Are you aware of any place where I can explore or see more of such paintings?

    • Thank-you, Raji. I don’t know where you can view more of these. There are some examples of distorted grids in the book “Experimental Drawing” by Robert Kaupelis. That is where I found this exercise. There are many ways to distort an image and he runs through the different approaches in this book. It was just recently re-released.

  7. This is so interesting – aside from the controlled distortion I love the colours and structures in the ears and neck – you are so good at this.

    • Thank-you, Stephen. I am going to do more of these. I want to search for that elusive distortion that just says it all. One of my students is using a figure of a slender woman to base her distortion on. The format she chose and the lines she drew caused a tall slender woman to become short and fat. The elegance of her pose was maintained, however. Wonder what a lizard-eating spider would look like distorted on a grid?

  8. Very interesting technique and idea Leslie. This must have taken a while just to get everything right!

    • Thank-you, Heather. It takes a while to get everything mapped out in line so you can make other decisions about values as you work through each space division. I personally don’t like working from a grid and never do until I found this exercise and saw examples. I will continue to use this to furthur my vision.

  9. Your blog is always such a treat, Leslie! This is amazing! I want to try this. When I first started back to my art, I used a grid, due to a total lack of confidence. I happily weaned myself away from them, but this looks like so much fun! I do love the way artists’ brains work!

    • Thank-you, Beth. I don’tlike using a grid in the normal manner because I like to see what I can do with my own drawing skill, but I really like this kind of grid. I felt I was actively participating in the outcome because there are so many directions you can go as you design each space!

  10. Amazing! As always, I’m late to the party and therefore everyone else has said all the things I was thinking whilst I was looking at the pictures (not the recoiling in horror bit though)so,…what they said 😀 in bucket-loads and with bells on.

    I’ve also just realised that you’ve had your gallery of drawings and paintings up for a while now and I’ve only just seen them – sigh! Which is quite a good thing, a bit like when my brother gobbled up all his sweeties quickly and I still had some left – I shall enjoy savouring them at my leisure.

    • Thank-you, June! Jay is a friend of mine and he saw me putting the dog together at home and that is where that stemmed from.He really didn’t know where I was headed with it; but , then again, I’m not sure I did either! Ha! Distorted grids kind of carry you there as you fill each space in.
      The galleries are pieces that are not nested in these main pages of the blog. I did that so bloggers could view my earlier figures and colored pencil. Thank-you for visiting them.

  11. This was really fun to read. I’ve never heard of it before. It turned out so great! I would really like to try this, although I don’t paint.. Maybe I’ll start now…? 🙂

    • Thank-you, Deva. I had heard of it but never tried it before. I am still searching for something real funky to do. I’ll bet you could paint. You already have an eye for composition and subject material!. I think you can distort photographs with a grid on the computer in photoshop or one of those programs!

  12. Cool! What a fun thing to do.
    I like when realistic images are transformed somehow and yet you can see the original. It makes the viewer engage more in the process since they have to work at it. Sort it out, so as to speak.

    • Thank-you Kristin. This is sort of like a jig-saw puzzle as it comes together. You are right about the viewer!

  13. Very interesting way to capture distorted images, great painting.Always a pleasure to come to your blog learn another new technique today. Thanks leslie

  14. Leslie thank you for sharing this: i had a similar idea for a portrait but wasn’t sure how to approach it and didn’t want to distort the original photo. the painting worked out wonderfully, r.

    • Your welcome Rahina. There is a book that has been re-issued this year called “Experimental Drawing” by Robert Kaupelis. I am relying heavily on it to create my creative drawing class. In that book there are multiple ways listed to distort a drawing. They work for paintings, also, of course.

  15. I love the painting, but the only thing bothering me is the 15% rule. i still think you are within in the 15% where your point isnt getting across.. you should definately be more gutsy and go for a drastic change. i always enjoy a piece where i have to examine it to realize what it is. expecially if you are working with distortion.

    • I agree. Thank-you for your insight, Marissa. Do you have a blog? It is not coming through with your comment. I did get elongation and double ears and broadened head and broken nose. There is one that worked out really well for one of my students on the student page.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: