Why Learning How to DRAW is Critical for Painters


When new students come to study with me, one of the things I ask them to do is bring a few samples of their work (if they have some) so that I can see where they are at and understand what we need to concentrate on in class.

Every time. Every single, blessed time, the first thing I see is that they really don’t know how to draw. Some have been able to render a decent contour (outside lines) drawing, but they know virtually nothing about some of the most important things that will turn them into good painters. This the short list of what you learn in drawing:

  • Creating a believable, solid form that sits in space, using light and shade.

  • Proportion and placement of the item(s) or features

  • Line quality

  • The illusion of weight or lightness

  • Perspective--both linear and atmospheric

  • Gesture and movement

  • Composition

  • Values and organized value patterns.

When you are painting, it does not “magically” happen by putting the right colours down and voila. If you can’t create the thing in pencil, charcoal or whatever, how the blazes do you think you can do it with the added complication of colour? It boggles my mind . . . . Anyway, I completely understand the drive to get in there and paint. It’s bottled up inside you, there’s something that inspires you and you really, really want to paint it. When that happens, try this first. Just draw it with pencil or charcoal. Go ahead, take as much time as you need . . . . . make it look like the painting you want to be, but without colour. Only difference in the final result is that your drawing will be in black and white and shades of grey. If you can’t draw it, quite simply, you can’t paint it. Sometimes students say to me “I’ll fix the drawing (which usually means just about everything . . . ) when I start painting. Really? Why is it different in colour than in pencil? Your painting is only going to be as good as the drawing. Is the drawing off kilter? I’m sorry, but then the painting isn't going to be any better. “But” you may argue, “I want to paint like the impressionists, it’s just little spots of colour” or “I want to paint abstractly” (even MORE reason to know how to draw). If you do not have the basic eye/hand co-ordination and a solid grasp of the skills listed above, you are going to struggle, get frustrated, etc. See the image of my painting Grapes below? Yep, I had to draw that before I painted it. If I couldn’t draw it, the painting would have been a mess. The key elements in creating the drawing did not revolve around rendering each and every grape in the bunch in full detail (some artists do; I don’t). But, I did need to have a drawing that gave me the placement, proportions, value pattern, etc. in short every element I listed in the beginning of this post, to paint it. So come to the light side, step away from the darkness. If you really want to improve your paintings, enroll in my Independent study class or “Drawing for Painters” class. No judgment is passed, atone for those artistic misconceptions you have, and start to take the steps to becoming a much better, and yes, a happier artist.


#drawing #perspective #linequality #composition

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