Drawing techniques: counter-proofing, pouncing and the grid
Artists have employed a wide range of techniques for transferring images from one surface to another. Some techniques enable artists to make direct copies, others assist them in copying designs at a new scale. These 'tricks of the trade' were passed on by artists to pupils as part of their training. Some of the techniques used in the 15th century are still used today.
Artists could use these transfer techniques to copy a preliminary drawing onto a new surface in order to start working it up into a finished painting. The same designs could therefore be re-used for different works of art. Renaissance workshops often kept drawings that could be used again and again to make paintings of popular subjects such as the Virgin and Child.
The image above is an example of the artist re-using a design by copying. The image on the right is a counter-proof, made by pressing a sheet of paper on to the original drawing, while it was still wet. Both drawings were then worked up into finished pictures. Rowlandson often repeated drawings in this way and passed off counter-proofs for sale as original drawings. The deception was frequently increased by counter-proofing the original pencil lines as well, thus giving the unwary the impression of a spontaneous sketch following a rough outline.
Marco D'Oggiono (died after 1524) Head of the Virgin A study for the Virgin and Child in the National Gallery, about 1500-1525 Black chalk on paper, pricked for transfer
This study of the head of the Virgin (right) has been pricked with tiny holes so that charcoal can be pushed through to create a dot-to-dot image on another sheet of paper or canvas. This technique was called 'pouncing'.
The original pricked drawing was laid over a new surface ready for the original to be transferred. The artist filled a small muslin bag with powdered charcoal, and this was patted over the holes in the drawing. The tiny holes in the original drawing would leave behind small dots on the new surface, and this provided a guide which could then be worked up into a finished painting.
Using a grid
Many artists have used grids to assist them in creating larger or smaller-scale copies.
A grid is drawn over the original study, and another grid is marked out at the desired scale on the surface where the image is to be reproduced. The artist can then copy the part of the design that appears in each square at the new size. This technique is still in use today.