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I was lucky enough to be able to spend time with my three Granddaughters this summer.  We went to the zoo and I snapped the reference photo for this portrait right before they rode the train. I am a lucky Grandma.

In order to draw this composition, I used a simple grid.



I frame the composition that I want from the photo.  I use two “L shapes” that I have cut from a matte in order to do this. I then draw a grid over the surface of the photo dividing it into three sections vertically and horizontally. This grid helps me to draw the scene or figure in proportion. It also shows me the four areas or “sweet spots” where it is best to create a center of interest. I chose this composition because the foreground and background girls were near and in a good place for a center of interest.



I then have to measure my watercolor paper (height and width) to be proper multiples of the dimensions of my reference photo. I grid the watercolor paper (lightly) with graphite and draw my composition.  Before I begin to paint, I gently erase the grid lines with a soft eraser.

I do not grid everything I create but it helps with more difficult subject material where proportion or likeness is needed.


  1. Turned out beautiful….their cute!

  2. You ARE a lucky grandma!!! What beautiful girls! What a beautiful portrait!

    • I had fun with this. I think I still need to learn to get more loose with painting people (sort of like the ponies). Thank you for the “beautiful girls” comment!

  3. A beautiful piece of art and even more beautiful family. What treasures!

  4. Beautiful girls and beautiful sketch as well😃❤️

    • Inese Poga Art Gallery
    • Posted October 15, 2014 at 10:33 pm
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    • Reply

    Beautiful portraits! It’s great to paint granddaughters, that’s why there’s so much expression and love in your painting. Very amazing, I was spending some time this summer with my grandchildren, too. They are across the ocean, in Latvia. The oldest grandson is 17, and the youngest is 13. I haven’t painted any portraits of them yet. However, we painted together with the youngest grandson. They both speak not only their native Latvian, but English, as well.
    I’m glad you had time for your fantastic granddaughters, they probably will be painting just like you do.

    • I remember reading your posts about your travels! I can’t even imagine these three as teenagers, yet. Time goes along so fast. I’ll bet it was fun for you to paint with your Grandson. I’m pretty lucky to be able to see mine regularly. Thank you, so much, Inese.

  5. Leslie, what a joy to be a grandmother to your three lovely grandchildren. You honored them with your lovely and excellent painting. Painting portraits is not easy especially when there are three in one composition.

    • I have painted two people together and two horses together but not three people unless the were small and indistinct. This was a challenge for me. Thank you for recognizing that. Loved your recent post about the robins and the painting of the nest!

  6. Beautiful portrait! I love the composition

  7. Thank you for this helpful lesson in composition. Beautiful painting, Leslie!

    • This is just a little tip that goes a long way when you look at reference material. It has helped me to be mindful about how I design a painting from life, also. Sometimes, when outdoors, I don’t know where to start. I frame my subject with my hands and begin at a “sweet spot” on my paper, with what I think is the most interesting thing and allow the painting to come together from that point outward. I don’t think there is any right or wrong to this but it has sure helped me. Thank you, Marian!

      • Love your tips! Keep them coming. As a relatively new painter I have so much to learn. Much appreciated!

  8. Such a great sketch of three beautiful girls!

  9. I love it grandma it’s awesome 🙂

    • You are so kind to come here and follow Grandma. Thank you, Sydney! 🙂

  10. LOVE, love, love them all and your work! Now, when will I become a grandma 🙂

    • Ha! I was in no rush to be a Grandma and did not realize what the big deal was when I’d listen to my friends speak of their grandchildren. Then? These three came along one, two, three and stole my breath away! It will happen, Padmaja, and then you will be painting them, too! Thank you! 🙂

  11. Your art I admire. I continue to appreciate your exploration and sharing of such…new avenues of technique and “how-to”. Looking forward to more of it all as we head into winter and hunker down to some serious studio time!!! Thank you. Sincerely, Raye

    • Hi Raye, who I like to call Jots! Yes. Hunkering down. I just hope it is without the “snowed-in” this winter. Thank you for this comment. I was so glad to see you are painting again! I admire your work, also.

  12. Sweet leslie.

  13. So cute – you are so lucky! Love seeing your painting, it’s a beautiful portrait.

  14. You are a lucky and talented grandma, indeed. Very sweet little girls and what a precious painting !

  15. Superb work as always Leslie

  16. Lovely granddaughters. I’m sure they all had fun at the zoo. I work with a grid for my dog portraits, but with a LOT more squares. It works out well as I can do the inking and then erase all of the pencil. I eye in all of the watercolor.

  17. beautiful grandkids of a delightful artist! 🙂 … great pic, moment, painting!! ces’t la vie

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