Thank you for making a class about this important topic!
It's not only the internet with the no reference policy. I've met quite a bunch of boomer gen art enthusiasts (or even middle school art teachers) who are utterly convinced that real art doesn't use reference. -_-
Recently, I encountered this issue when trying to paint some portraits. I did preliminary sketches, first by tracing:
... which looked stiff as heck... I measured, tried all kinds of stuff and it still looked me And then, being thoroughly fed up, I freestyled another sketch within 5 mins to work out my anger:
That totally looks like her (maybe some years younger and with some makeup, but who would object ;) ). All the measurements are off when compared to the photo. Obviously, this isn't exactly a master piece, but definitely s.th. I feel confident starting a painting from.
... I mean, why? Probably because I auto corrected some distortions in my head (I knew the subject)? ... hrm
Anyways, on to the exercise from this class:
I never draw directly on the watercolour paper without working out things on cheap paper first. So I drew on the block and printer paper I always use.
Here's my 5 minute sketch (which after my last experience, I noticed to be apparently be an important step in my personal workflow):
Because I didn't have access to a printer atm, I used my iPad as a light box and copied directly, paper on screen:
Both were sort of meh, so I combined the approaches:
I'm pretty happy with this. Getting the proportions right quickly (through tracing), and then being able to focus on emotions and other details, is definitely the way to go for me.
As for transferring to watercolor... I definitely brake out the big light table. When that is impossible, I do a graphite trace by drawing on the back of the sketch and then re-tracing the sketch. Not a fan of carbon paper, either.
Oh, and in case you haven't noticed: I never even touched the grid thingy. ;) I had to do that in school, 8th grade or something. It was one of those "I'm glad to have done that, but equally glad to never have to do it again" experiences. ^^;